Wednesday, September 30, 2009

From the sublime to the ridiculous

Parenting is a series of hairpin curves, designed to keep you awake at the wheel.

Aaron is cracking us up with his increasing command of the English language, or at least his version of it. We had salmon for dinner the other night, which progressed into a discussion about fish, and of course into a dinner-table singing of the classic "Slippery Fish" song. I'd never heard this song before Meredith started preschool at "Penny School". It quickly became a favourite of hers, and is clearly fast becoming a favourite of Aaron's. For the uninitiated, the song goes:

"Slippery fish, slippery fish, swimming in the water. Slippery fish, slippery fish, gulp, gulp gulp! Oh no, he's been eaten by a......." and then you add in a bigger, and bigger and bigger fish. So the slippery fish gets eaten by a tuna fish (or salmon fish, if you're having dinner at our house), then the tuna fish gets eaten by a great white shark, and the great white shark gets eaten by a humongous whale. Up until now, I thought Aaron's favourite part was the slapping of the hands together like the gaping maw of a sea creature, eating a smaller sea creature. I'd completely forgotten about the bit of potty humour at the end of the song.

So Monday night Meredith, Aaron and I are singing slippery fish for Daddy, who has been living under a rock and had never heard the song before. We finished, or so I thought. A moment or two later, Aaron dissolves into laughter. He's cracking himself up. And through his giggles, I hear him saying in a funny bass voice, "Burp. S'cuse me!" Over and over again. We were all laughing watching him laugh. More infectious than the swine flu in a pediatrician's waiting room.

How could I forget that the song ends with a burp from the humongous whale? A whole family sitting together around the table giggling uncontrollably is one of the most pleasant turns in the road I've seen in a long time.

Fast forward to tonight. I took Meredith to her piano lesson, and was helping her buckle her carseat before we headed back home. I guess because I was standing on the road while buckling her, she asked what would happen if I got smucked by a car. As in, what would she do if I was laying helpless on the road.


In all attempts to remain calm, I told her she should push the red button on the On-Star console in our car. Never mind that our On-Star subscription expires this month. Or wait in the car and shout for help and a friendly person would come to help. So then she suggested she could also get out of the car and walk down the sidewalk looking for help. Or go to her piano teacher's house to ask her to help. Or walk home from her piano teacher's to our house and ask Daddy, or the neighbour boy's mom or dad for help. "But would it be dark by the time I walked back Mommy?"

After vowing to watch very carefully for traffic while buckling her up, I thought we'd laid this question to rest. As we pulled into the garage though, she asked "If you got smucked by a car and died to Heaven Mommy, would Daddy get married again?"

Seriously. How does a five-year-old get that?

It was like taking a corner blind. I had no idea which possible answer I could give would be the one that would reassure her enough in the right direction. I swerved towards "Well he might, and he might not sweetie. Sometimes people don't get married again." Apparently this was a wrong turn. Her eyes welled up and she said "But who would be my mommy then?"

And my heart shattered into 89 billion tiny little pieces at the thought of this sweet, precocious, sensitive child in the world without a mommy. Without this mommy.

So I answered the best answer I could think of and prayed for strength. "I'll always be your mommy in your heart, Meredith." A friend gave me this suggestion some months ago when Meredith was asking about death. And then added "But let's do everything we can to be safe to make sure that problem never happens."

And off she went to eat a handful of raspberries and get ready for bed. Hairpin curve, indeed.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Endless summer

We are wholeheartedly enjoying the beautiful weather we've been having through the month of September. Our strawberry plant is thoroughly confused and tonight we harvested this bounty from our own backyard!

Apparently after something like seven or eight consecutive months of record-breaking low temperatures, we're having a month of record-breaking high temperatures.

The September routine is beginning to settle in, despite our still wearing shorts and flip flops and pretending it's summer. Tomorrow marks two full weeks of Kindergarten under Meredith's belt. She seems to be enjoying it, and has even taken a substitute teacher in stride on a day that Madame Katie was sick. Around our house, it feels like the song "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" should start playing and pink clouds of candy floss emerge from the sky when Madame Katie's name is spoken (or Damn Katie as Aaron calls her....). She truly is goodness and sunshine wrapped up in human form!

It's been so fascinating to hear Meredith talk about her first impressions. After a few days of school, she was expressing to me how much she likes her teacher. I asked what it was about the teacher that she particularly liked. Her answer? "Her face, and her hair." When I asked for more detail, she said, "Well her face is so smiling, and so sweet all the time, and her hair is blonde and shiny." "And even though she's a grown-up, she's a little grown-up." Clearly being short is an asset in the Kindergarten crowd!

The challenging thing about school, for me, is that it's an experience that is only Meredith's. She gets on the school bus and goes there, and gets on the school bus and goes back to the daycare. We have no direct contact with the school in dropping her off or picking her up, which is a whole new experience. More than ever, I'm relying on what she tells me to piece together what her day looks like, and what goes on in the classroom. It has been a bit of a hilarious journey putting it all together through the eyes of a five year old.

One of the main topics of conversation is around discipline and expectations for behaviour in the classroom. Through a combination of carefully asked questions, attentive listening to her comments about the day and consultation with a fortune teller, I think I've got a grasp on the system that the teacher is using in the room. It seems that each child's name is on a clothespin, and kept somewhere on a board in the room. Various infractions in classroom behaviour result in your clothespin moving to the numbers 1, 2 or 3. Apparently one generally moves through the numbers sequentially, but some infractions are 'automatic threes' as Meredith relayed to me with eyes wide! When I asked her what an example of an 'automatic three' would be she said "Like running away from Madame Katie in the playground and going through the gate. You could get hit by a car you know, and Madame Katie wouldn't want that!"

Those children who pass their morning without receiving a 1, 2 or 3 get a reward before leaving Kindergarten. Meredith has brought home a sticker, a temporary tattoo and one day received a green gummy bear. She got the gummy bear just before lunch, I'd imagine, when she got on the bus to head back to daycare and saved it through lunch and the whole afternoon to bring it home to show me before she ate it.

At first I had an uneasy gut reaction to the 'reward' part of this system. Until the day of the green gummy bear. This tiny reward meant so much to Meredith that she brought it home to share the experience with me. That day I realized this teacher is one smart cookie. She has a short window of opportunity at the outset of this school year to get the kids to understand and internalize what acceptable classroom behaviour looks like. And she's doing it in a way that's certainly working for my little scholar. Meredith has made it through the first two weeks with only a 1. Her infraction? Using her outside voice in the classroom.

The last two weeks have also seen the resumption of swimming lessons for the kids, and Meredith's first piano lesson. Before we blink our eyes it will be October! One good thing about the upcoming cooler weather will be the chance for Meredith to wear her new favourite pants. We're so lucky to have a treasure trove of hand-me-downs from her cousins for her to choose from. Many of the pants though looked a little like this:

So I finally tried my hand at applique, after looking at these pants in the mending pile for the past several months. They were a hit! I love that my kids are still too young to turn up their noses at something handmade, and in fact think it's even better that way.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Living Room Concert Hall

Meredith's piano lessons were slated to start today, but got pushed back due to a change in the teacher's schedule. None of this, of course, was sufficient to delay the first recital of the season! Meredith advised Aaron and I we were invited to a concert after supper, and set about creating her concert hall.

The venue had many of the usual sights:
* Chairs with little numbers on them to find your seat. I was told to sit in number 1 and Aaron was told to sit in number 2, even though it was apparently "a very bad number 2 but I'll practice more in Kindergarten."

* Snacks for the performance. Aaron had his 3 Smarties done before the performance started, and spent the rest of the show drooling bright colours.

* A refreshing drink. I was warned to check mine before consuming it because "I filled the glass too full so I drank a bit out of one side but I can't remember which side, so just test it with your lips before you drink."

And in a delightful twist on the usual prize-taped-under-only-one-seat, we were both awarded with a balloon under the seat for coming to the show.

Dress was casual. Or naked with a bib.

The pianist wore a daring ensemble of nudity and her favourite blanket.

The performance was outstanding. We heard "Into the Cave" and "Three Little Kittens", both of which she just learned this morning and has already committed to memory.
Yes indeed, take a bow Meredith!

Friday, September 11, 2009

And she's off!

Today was the day. The highly anticipated day! The day that's been talked about over and over again since she turned five in March. The day of her 5th birthday, she was pretty sure she'd be going to Kindergarten the next day. Well, "the next day" finally arrived!

We started the day off with a special first-day-of-school breakfast. Waffles using Grandpa Bill's recipe and yummy fresh peaches. She woke up to find her chair decorated with balloons and yesterday received a beautiful flower from her cousin Airdrie.

When I was a kid, my dad used to take our picture at the school bus every year for the first day of school. As farm kids, riding the school bus was an expected reality, not a potential possibility! We decided to take the shot in front of the piano to see just how much she grows from September to September.

Then it was off to daycare to drop off Aaron and take part in the main event - lining up for the bus! It was drizzling when we first arrived, and poured rain shortly thereafter, but nothing could dampen her enthusiasm!

And here's the classic child-getting-on-the-schoolbus shot. Except that's Meredith's buddy Jenna, not Meredith! You can just catch a glimpse of the end of her backpack as she scoots onto the bus at top speed without so much as a backward glance, or a wave to the paparazzi!

The bus beat me to the school, and the kids were already sitting in a tidy little group in the gymnasium with their teacher by the time I arrived to peek. Class by class these groups of elementary school children followed their teachers from the gym to their classrooms. It was a sea of sweet smiling faces, happy nervous energy, and wide-eyed amazement. If you could bottle the energy that was swirling through those hallways today, you would have found the fountain of youth!
Madame Katie led the kids to their room, they took off their wet outdoor shoes, and then they filed into the classroom to begin this most monumental first day of school. There wasn't a tear in the bunch! My fear had been that one of these little tender souls would let out a wail for Mom on their way into the classroom and it would spread like a bad disease. But not a peep was heard, not even from a Mom!

Tonight she's tired, but successful. And Monday we get to do it all over again!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Check, check!

Brand new pair of school shoes? Check.

Brand new school backpack? Check.

Two Ziploc bags, box of tissues and a cheque for 30 bucks? Check.

No, seriously. This was Meredith's school supplies list.

One five-year old so ready for Kindergarten she can already taste it?? Check, check!

The anticipation is palpable around here. I've got scads of posts to still catch up on to capture the last vestiges of summer, but it's all-Kindergarten, all-the-time here right now. After a beautiful long weekend at the lake Meredith started Tuesday in the Kinder group at daycare. That was adequate excitement for Tuesday.
Today was her chance to meet her teacher for a 10 minute 'interview'. We got a tour of the classroom, found her locker, located her spot at the table, checked out the mini-sized washroom, and ogled the fantastic assortment of toys and learning materials in the room. We moved on to test out the xylophones and drums in the Music room. That was adequate excitement for Wednesday.
Tomorrow she has A. Whole. Day. At. Daycare. With. Nothing. Kindergarten-y.
Friday is the big day. The plan is to take her to daycare so she can ride the bus to the school with her pals. Fortunately, the other ex-Monkey-now-Kinder moms are as loony as me, and are all for the plan of watching the kids get on the bus at daycare and racing (carefully, so as to not hit any schoolchildren) to the school to watch them get off. And be escorted by a Patrol to the playground. And line up when the bell rings to march into Kindergarten for the very first time.
That will be adequate excitement for Mommy for the next month or so.