Monday, September 2, 2013

A Week of Firsts

The Pumpkin just stared 1st grade this past week. For the other 6 year olds in the neighborhood, this means going back to school in the next grade up. For the Pumpkin, this means starting in elementary school for the first time. Last year, we had a bit of reprieve because she stayed at the Montessori school in the classroom that was ages 3 through 5 and included a "Kindergarten Class" for the 5 year olds. So we didn't deal with the OMG-my-kid-is-going-into-kindergarten-and-leaving-the-nest that all my other friends with 5 year olds went through. But the Montessori school only went through Kindergarten.

So, we had a reprieve, but that ended this year.

The Pumpkin was very excited to go to the elementary school for the first time, to ride a school bus for the first time and take the daycare's bus to aftercare for the first time! The local elementary school is excellent, and I was looking forward to gathering at the bus stop with the other parents. We meet the teacher at a back-to-school sneak peak the Friday before school started. She was warm, friendly, funny and great with the kids. We are very hopeful about the Pumpkin's transition to the new school.

The first week has gone really well. The Pumpkin loves the teacher, has a friend in her class that was in her class at the Montessori school (I requested that they be in the same class on the sheet in the admittance paperwork), gets excited about the bus, and she even got to get food in the cafeteria (hurray for no more peanut allergy!). By day 2 or 3, the Pumpkin was a bit sad about not making a bunch of friends already. She is so outgoing and friendly that I think she expected to make a ton of friends immediately. Londo and I both talked with her about it and explained that making new friends does not always happen right away. That other kids may be nervous or shy and that all the kids need time to adjust to the new class. Those talks seemed to help a lot.

Her teacher called parents on Friday to give an update about how the children are doing so far! She talked with Londo, and she said that the Pumpkin was doing well so far. How awesome is that for a 1st grade teacher to do?

She is aware of the Pumpkin's previous school and that we were worried about her transition into the non-Montessori environment, and she agreed that is an area that the Pumpkin needs to continue working on. Based on what I've seen and what the teacher said, I do believe she'll fully transition soon.

This is hard, though. This letting go of my child. This letting her out into the world without my supervision in a school with older kids. This is not sending her to a carefully picked daycare/school and letting her spend 3 years there with the comfort of knowing the kids and teachers and administration. She is in a new environment with new rules and new kids.

I just want it all to go well, to go smoothly. I want everyone to love her and think she's fun and funny and realize how wonderful she is. I want her to make friends easily and enjoying learning and study hard even when it's difficult. Isn't that what all parents want for their kids? But we don't get to make that happen. Instead, we have to let them go and see how they do on their own. It won't all be easy and there will be ups and downs. But I know that she will be able to stand up for herself, she'll be friendly and nice to other kids, and she'll always have us as a safety net.

First grade. Where did the time go? The nights may have been long, but the years have flown by.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Intricacies of Language

My kids are now each of an age where they are learning new concepts in language. The Pumpkin is 6 (almost 6 and a half! those halves count!), and the Pookie is 4. They have each just come through another leap in development, and I can see that language was part of those leaps.

For the Pookie, he is now able to explain himself, and he is able to state words more clearly. Although his little lisp has been adorable, it has also lead to frustrations for himself and us. Now, he is able to explain "smah gitah" is not the "big gitah [we had just been talking abut]. He played the smah gitah" which was actually the violin, or "fiddle" as the Pumpkin explained.

Conversations with the boy are lengthier and have more details. When we ask him about his day or what they did in Soccer Shots, he actually tells us about an actual thing that happened. This is WAY better than the previous "I don know." And lately, I've been reading the kids chapter books at bedtime, and when I ask each kid what happened when we stopped reading the night before, he is able to remember some details and answer! This is really neat for me to see develop.

Unfortunately, he still likes to push his boundaries using words. I think we've finally gotten him to stop saying "bam your face." This was more annoying that you might think. At first, it was an occasional answer to an innocuous question, "like what do you want to do?" "I want to bam your face!" And then it morphed into random answers to EVERYTHING just about ALL the time: "Do you want a bagel or cereal?" "I want a bam your face!" Or even replies to statements: "Stop doing that, Pookie!" "Stop bamming your face!" I'm sure you get the picture. Ah, the fun of boundary-pushing four-year-old boys. "Bam your face" took a LOT of reminding and reprimanding to get him to stop, but he still adds "blah blah bloo blam" and other nonsense words in random sentences.

However, one of the cutest things he says is 45. It is so cute because we realized that the Pookie thinks that is the highest number evah! We could be talking about how much or how many of something and saying there are thousands or millions, and he'll say there are "FORTY FIVE!" And we all (the Pumpkin included), go "wow! That's a lot!" cause we know he thinks it's the highest number.

As for the 6 (almost 6 and a half!) year old Pumpkin, she has been learning language at the next level. Specifically, we've been working on sarcasm and figures of speech. Londo and I can be sarcastic at times. It helps keep us sane. And though we've read the research that says kids don't understand sarcasm until they are about 7, we give pretty good facial cues and flat out say when we're being sarcastic so she can learn. (I believe the research also said that they can learn a bit earlier if they are around it and it's explained to them.)

For example, if I say, "I really love it when you don't listen to me, Pumpkin." She knows enough to look at me, and I raise a single eyebrow, and she says, "That was sarcasm, right?" Yes, yes it was, Pumpkin.

I have been really enjoying teaching her figures of speech and sayings! I think it started with "it's raining cats and dogs!" That's a pretty crazy image, if you think about it--or if you are a kid just hearing it. That's when I explained that it was a saying and what that meant. A few days later at bedtime, I said, "What's wrong? Cat's got your tongue?" And then I realized that the last thing we needed was for her to have some nightmare where a cat was getting her tongue, so I quickly explained that it was a figure of speech, and what that meant, and how silly it was, and gave her a few more examples.

It's pretty neat to see how their language skills are evolving. Since Londo and I were both English majors for undergrad, we are very interested in language and teaching them about language. In fact, just the other night, I introduced them to poetry with the Shel Silverstein book I had as a little girl--Where the Sidewalk Ends is still a favorite of mine, and I LOVED introducing them to it. Language is beautiful and fun and interesting and frustrating and hard to understand and wonderful. Getting to watch and listen and teach my kids as they learn the intricacies of language is definitely a highlight of this parenting gig for me.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

There Was a 20% Chance

Something crazy and unbelievable has happened to my daughter. Life changing, once again.

The Pumpkin is no longer allergic to peanuts!!!!

She is about to start at public school (in first grade, because she stayed at the Montessori school for kindergarten), and Londo and I were starting to create the plan for her peanut allergy at school. We wanted to talk with her allergist about the plan, and look into the amazing new epinephrine auto-injectors (Auvi-Q). I also remembered that she was supposed to get re-tested when she was six. So I made the allergist appointment, figuring we'd take care of it all in one visit.

We discussed all our concerns and developed a plan. Then my brave daughter had a skin test done for her peanut allergy. It went way better than the first skin test. Not only is she older and able to handle requests for stillness and not to scratch, it was also on her arm and only had the two controls and the peanut allergen. We distracted her with iPhone games and YouTube. Every now and then, Londo and I would exchange a cautious look.

And when the nurse came in and confirmed that the only reaction was the control for an allergic reaction, I was filled with hope-tinged disbelief, as was Londo. The Pumpkin didn't fully understand the possible implications, and we knew that there were more tests before we would know for sure so we didn't explain in great detail. The doctor came in and laid out the next steps: a blood test, and if that was negative she'd do a peanut challenge in the doctor's office (actually eating little bits of peanut butter over the course of a few hours while being monitored by the nurse).

Although Londo had a work meeting he couldn't miss, I thought I'd strike while the iron was hot and the girl was being brave. I had the order for her blood work in my hand, and the next building over had a lab that took walk-ins. So we walked in.

My daughter has had this allergy since she was 2. We have drilled it into her head how careful she needs to be around food. She has been reminded and coached to not touch things in gas stations, at barbecues, in schools. She has become great about managing her allergy, which has primarily been avoidance management. The Pumpkin has a peanut allergy, and that has been a part of her identity for as long as she can remember.

Now, her identity was about to shift into one that might not have a peanut allergy. She needs to warm up to change, to take time for transitions. Londo and I had explained to her that she may not be allergic to peanuts anymore. At her uncertainty and even protests, we assured her that she would never have to eat a peanut if she didn't want (with the exception of the peanut challenge, but we'd explain that later). But we needed to know if she wasn't allergic, because that would change where she could go (for example, Five Guys) and what she could eat (any type of candy!).

By the time I was walking her into the next building, it was starting to sink in. But there was the fact that she would have to have blood drawn to find out. A needle. Do I even need to say that she hates needles? That she gets filled with anxiety at the thought of the doctor in case she needs a vaccine shot?

But I was honest with her. There would be a needle. She protested, "That's okay, Mommy. I'm okay with my peanut allergy!" But I explained that we HAD to know. It was important. She ended up bravely sitting in my lap and not even flinching (after I and then the technician explained that if she moved it would hurt more AND have to be done again). I was super proud of her! She deserved every lollipop and sticker she got that day!

The next week, we got the call that the blood work was negative. We made the appointment for the peanut challenge for that Friday. It was long (5 hours total!), and it was difficult since the Pumpkin REALLY didn't like the peanut butter, so it was hard for her to choke down, especially as the doses got larger. But in the end, she had a total of 2 tablespoons of peanut butter with NO reaction to it AT ALL. And that was that!

So our lives are changing again. It's an adjustment, but a happy one. Life would have been fine if she was allergic her whole life. We'd have managed, and she would still have had a great time at birthday parties (where I brought her own homemade cupcakes) and at Halloween (where she says "Trick or treat; no peanuts please" and we trade out her unsafe candy for safe ones we pre-buy) and at school (where she'd have sat at the nut-free table). But now, life will just be a lot easier.

I cannot adequately explain the relief that Londo and I feel, though. The peanut allergy was a constant, CONSTANT worry. It was always there, hanging over us, heavy on our shoulders. A constant fear for her safety in a world filled with peanuts. And now... it's gone. Well, mostly. I still immediately think, "I better check where the food is from and/or the label." And then I remind myself, I don't actually need to worry about it! WHAT? It's crazy! And unexpected. And such a relief!

After the peanut challenge, we took her to Chick-fil-a for lunch and then to Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream. As the Pumpkin pointed out, I didn't even have to wipe down her chair and spot at the table! When we went to the beach last week, we ate at Five Guys and we had ice cream from a stand and we had Boardwalk Fries cooked in peanut oil! And when driving to lunch and I asked her where we could eat, she said, "Anywhere we want!"

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Taking the Kids to My Memories

When I was growing up, my parents took me and my sister and brother up to my maternal grandparents' house on Cape Code for about a month every summer. (Doesn't that sound so fancy? In a Thurston Howell voice: My family would summer on Cape Cod, you know.) My mom was from the Boston area, and her parents moved to the Cape when they retired. Since we lived in the Washington, DC, area and my mom's brother and his family lived in Texas, we would all get together for a few weeks in August every year. My sister, brother, two cousins and I got along really well, and it was always so fun to spend the time with them and my other relatives who lived in Massachusetts.

My visits up there were very important to me, and the house was at the hub, was the foundation, of those memories. The house is in typical Cape Cod, with long, sloping yards in the front and back. It had a delicious vegetable garden and a prize-winning rose garden in the back, where my grandmother spent countless hours working and growing. There were lovely flowers blooming every around the house and the fence. The deck over the garage had a basketball hoop where I learned to play HORSE, and under the deck was the outdoor shower that was used by all 5 grandkids after every trip to the beach. The upstairs bedroom and deck had a breathtaking view of the ocean cove across the street.

We would walk across the street and down the path to the concrete boat ramp and little, sandy beach for easy days at the Cove. We would drive the 5-10 minutes to the ocean-side or bay-side beaches for full days of boogie-boarding and swimming and playing in the ocean and sand. We'd drive down to Chatham and spend the day shopping the quaint stores. And on rainy days or lazy days, we would break out the board games, playing marathon sessions of Monopoly that ended with handmade IOUs to fix someone ice cream for dessert or get someone a soda from the fridge downstairs for a stay in the hotel on Boardwalk.

It has been years since I went up to visit. Just before I got pregnant with the Pumpkin, my grandmother was finally convinced/forced to move in with my mom. Although she did NOT want to leave her lovely Cape Cod house, she was 91 and simply not able to live by herself any longer. Then, between being pregnant and having babies, it just wasn't feasible to make the 9 to 11 hour car trip up to the Cape, and the flight just seemed like too much work.  Londo and I would take our family vacations closer to home or at his parent's house (a 5-6 hour drive away). At the end of each summer, I would lament not going to the Cape, and Londo would try to make me feel better with a "maybe next summer we can do it."

My grandma passed away over a year ago. Although my mom and her brother have been renting out the house on the Cape by week during the summer, it's still a lot for them to maintain. This spring, they decided to put the house up for sale. I realized that this summer would be my last chance to visit, and say goodbye to, the house that was so much a part of my childhood.

And so, I planned a family vacation to Cape Cod!

I had hoped to go with my sister and/or brother and their families, but the timing didn't work out. Instead, I asked one of my best friends if she and her family wanted to come. Of course they did! So we planned and packed and got ready for the trip. Unfortunately, her younger daughter got sick right before the trip and had to stay home with her husband. But she was still able to come up with her older daughter two days after we arrived.

The drive was long, but not bad all things considered. I'm really impressed with how well my kids handle car trips, especially this extremely long one. Being a Family That Travels has really panned out for us. With stops but no real traffic, it took us 9.5 hours to drive up to the Cape house. We got in late, and put the kids to bed in the bed we were going to sleep in also--in the room on the top floor. The next morning was my birthday, and I wanted to wake up in the room with the gorgeous view. It was a beautiful way to start the day... with the exception of the kids and Londo waking up around 5:00, although Londo took the kids and let me sleep in.

The vacation was wonderful. We did everything that I really wanted to do, including going to the beaches I wanted to revisit, going to Chatham for the day and going to local museum, which even played the same educational film ("The Sands of Time")I had seen again and again since I was very young and the Pumpkin really enjoyed.

Londo and I taught our kids how to play the board game Sorry, and when my friend and her daughter were up with us, we played many other board games with the kids and just the adults after the kids went to bed, just as the adults did when I was a kid.

Such a key part of my summer vacations at Cape Cod were having my two cousins there with me and my siblings, cousins I got to see only once a year. My friends' daughter was like that kind of cousin to my kids. We try to get together a few times a year, usually a weekend here or there, but this extended time together on vacation was great for them! Although we missed the younger daughter, the three kids had a great time together, and they entertained each other so well that they needed very little oversight from us. This provided us adults a lot of opportunity to spend with each other, especially my friend and myself. We talk on the phone regularly, but we miss living near each other, so this time together was really fantastic.

It wasn't all perfect. I had a very different perspective as an adult in the Cape house. For example, I had forgotten that the house didn't have air conditioning. Out on the Cape, it isn't usually so noticeable, and since I hadn't been there in so many years, I had totally forgotten. Now that I was a parent there with children I worried about, it was very noticeable that there was no A/C... especially since we had RECORD HIGH HEAT while we were there! We put fans in every room, but it was outright miserable at times. In fact, we didn't stay up on the top floor after the first night--it was much too hot up there. We moved down into the rooms on the main floor, which were more manageable.

The worst part about the heat was when Londo started getting sick, and then the Pookie got sick. The heat never feels great when you are sick, but the fans blowing on them made it worse. We were going to just muddle through it for another day, but when the Pookie crawled into bed next to me in the middle of the night on Thursday burning up with fever and smelling of throw up, I started reconsidering our departure date.

We had forgotten to pack kid's motrin/fever medicine, and my baby boy throws up the minute he has a fever. We needed to get his fever down, especially in the heat, but that was when we realized that NOTHING was open in the middle of the night on the Cape, at least near us. I ended up having to give the poor little boy a cold bath in the middle of the night. He hollered, but it worked. I was able to sleep for a couple hours before I got up with an alarm to be at the Stop and Shop grocery store when it opened at 6:00. And even though his fever went down and I got a little more sleep that morning, we realized that we couldn't stay in the house or take him anywhere in the record-high heat. We quickly packed up and left on Friday instead of Saturday. I did not remember that nothing was open in the middle of the night, or maybe never needed to know that, when I was young.

I also had forgotten how temperamental the fuses could be. When the microwave went out when we were cooking a big lobster dinner, it wasn't a huge deal. The next day, I reported it to my mom, who said that she remembered that they could never make coffee and use the toaster at the same time or the fuse would blow. I also reported the water mark on the ceiling of the dining room, and she said that this was why they were selling the house.

The house is old, and there is a lot of work they keep having to put into it. And my mom and her brother live so far away from the house. It just doesn't make sense for them to hold on to it. In addition, my parents bought their own beach house at a beach less than 3 hours away from where they (and we) live. It's a new house, with A/C, good electrical work and an easy weekend drive. It may not have my childhood memories, but it will be a great place for my kids to make their own childhood memories.

The trip was wonderful. I'm so glad I got to bring my family and have a final vacation at the Cape house. I will always cherish the memories, from my childhood and from this last visit. I got some closure. I even was able to put on a lobster dinner, an annual tradition from my childhood. It was really great, and even the traffic and stops that made the return trip 11.5 hours long did not diminish the wonderful vacation that we had and the memories that will live on.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Playing in the Family Room Shorts

My sister started a runner's blog (which is awesome!), and she's gotten me inspired. I miss blogging. I miss writing. I miss recording my kids' lives. The Pumpkin is 6 now, and the Pookie is 4. They are so adorable, and I to capture their cuteness!

Perhaps I can start it up again. We'll see. No promises.

So for now, three stories... what I used to call shorts...


This morning, the kids were in the family room watching TV. The Pumpkin got up from sitting next to the Pookie on the couch and moved into the chair. The Pookie said, "Pumpkin*, where are you going?"

Her reply, "I'm in another dimension."

*He used her real name.


This evening when they were playing in the family room, the Pumpkin called it "Kidsville"and said it was where kids did all the work and the parents just "took it easy." She was running a salon, giving pretend haircuts to her brother.

I was doing dishes and asked them if any kids wanted to come into the kitchen to do the dishes as their work. The answer was (not surprisingly) no. I asked if it was because I was in another dimension. The Pumpkin said, "No, Mommy. That [the kitchen] is Adultville. We are in Kidsville." And that was the end of that.


While they were playing, the Pookie was being a superhero. He said his name was Chocolate. I said he sounds delicious and that I would eat him. He said that his name is Chocolate, but he is made of snakes. So he would taste like snakes and that would not be very good.

Shortly later, his sister said that the Pookie told her his superhero name was Warpath (Londo says this was after the Transformer he was playing with earlier). It was also Elephant. So I asked him, "Is your superhero name Warpath Chocolate Elephant?" His sister pointed out that Warpath would be his first name, Chocolate would be his middle name and Elephant would be his last name. He said, "No, ELEPHANT is my middle name." Of course!

So after a bit of discussion, it was determined that his name was Chocolate Elephant Warpath. But he was made of snakes, so he wouldn't taste good. I think it'll be the next hot superhero movie, don't you?

The Beginnings of a Ski Buddy

After lunch, my daughter and I went back up the "magic carpets" to the top of the bunny slopes. She wanted to keep skiing! With me...