Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Separation Anxiety

So, I wrote about The Bean's issues with perfectionism, now time to talk about Sprout's Separation Anxiety.

Sprout has always been attached to me at the hip. I get it. I've been home with her essentially since birth. I'm her safe place. When she started school back in the fall I was really proud of how well she transitioned. I chalked it up to her being well adjusted and feeling safe and secure. If I'm remembering correctly we had a bit of a set back just before the winter holidays, but whatever happened then, let me tell you, it's nothing compared to what's been going on the past month or so.

I have literally been having to peel her off of me in the mornings. She has been anywhere from slightly teary to nearly hysterical. It's completley frustrating and exhausting. I KNOW that minutes after I leave she calms down. I know that she is well-liked and well taken care of at school. I do not know why this has suddenly started or how to get her past it.

As frustrating as it is for me, I know for her it is real. I know she truly does not want me to leave her in the mornings. I've run the gamut with my reactions, from quickly peeling her off of me and leaving to lingering around until she's settled, reassuring her that I'll be back at the end of the day and can be reached if there are any problems, and then saying low-key goodbye before heading out. I feel better handling things the second way, but I'm also wary of overstepping. The school does not like parents lingering around.

I'm guess just not sure what to do. I know it's a phase. I know either way she will be okay. But I also want her to know that I wouldn't ignore her "needs."

What would you do?

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Break

We are nearly mid-way through March Break.

I feel like, for all of us, this is a much-needed time. There has barely been a moment to pause lately.

I over-scheduled the kids this winter, which means we were all over-schedule. Running around to various lessons and activities more days than not. Mostly enjoying things, but still exhausted. Sprout was crying at school drop off nearly every morning saying she wanted to come home with me, or that she wanted me to stay with her. Some days I lingered a while and quietly left after she'd settled in, others I had to peel her off of me, apologizing profusely to the teachers on yard duty and hoping that she'd settle down quickly. (Her teacher, who is so good to me, has texted me reassuringly many a morning.)

This break, while still busy up to this point, has been good. Not having to rush out the door or away from each other. Not having to get to skating, or swimming, or meetings. I wish we had two weeks instead of only one.

My dad is here visiting for the first time in three years. I was looking forward to seeing him, but even more than that, having him spending some quality time with the kids, who barely remember him. Except he was bizarrely non-committal when I tried to make plans before his arrival. And his first day here he told me he wouldn't really be up for many outings because getting around has become quite hard for him, which I can see, but still am disappointed about. And now he is sick and mostly just seems to want to sleep. And in a few days the kids will be back in school and then he'll be returning home and I don't know when we'll see him again. There is more to this --his wife is very sick, I worry about her and what he would do without her, yet it is hard to talk about what his plans for the future are without seeming morbid or like I am overstepping.

And since that sort of came out of nowhere, I'll jump in and briefly address other family conflict. My sister and her husband welcomed their second child last month. With their first I was there. (I believe) supportive during the pregnancy, labour, and months and years after that. I am fairly certain I knew that my sister was pregnant with this child before she had made any announcements, because sometimes one just knows and eventually that knowing is confirmed. I knew it was a girl before she'd said anything about that too. But we haven't talked in nearly a year and a half and while that's been a very, very good thing overall for myself and my family, I still feel disappointment that I haven't been able to be there for this little one. So complicated.

And, back to the theme of being busy, I don't think I've mentioned that I have started working for the kids' school. I'm supervising lunch and recess for an hour and a bit each day. It sounds like nothing, but it actually has changed my days in a noticeable way. That said, it's only been a few weeks and I'm still adjusting my routines. And, I should also note that I am enjoying it. It's not teaching, but I love being with kids and talking to them and I am cautiously hopefully that being a board employee might somehow positively impact my ability to be hired into a teaching position at the board. Probably wishful thinking, but at this point even the tiniest possibility that I may have gained some sort of advantage in getting hired is something to feel celebratory about.

In addition to school pick ups and lunches and drop offs I've been doing a lot of work with the School Council and have been appointed the "point person" for the new playground they're hoping to put in for the kindergarten students. I've been doing lots of research into outdoor classrooms and the benefits nature play (which I love, love, LOVE) and also into grant writing and landscape architecture and all sorts of other related avenues, which is very interesting, but utterly exhausting.

And with those little bits and bobs, I should probably head off to bed. It's become tomorrow and the morning will come too soon.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Perfectionism

Many things seem to come easily to The Bean. As great as this seems, we're starting to see the flip side. We've been noticing that he often gets quite frustrated when he isn't able to do things as well as he would like.

We try to be cognizant of praising his efforts rather than his ability. That is, more, "You worked so hard today in swimming class! You figured out how to get your legs straight on your kicks!" Rather than, "You're such an awesome swimmer! You kick your legs so hard!" Yet he still always seems to want to be the fastest/strongest/best. I'm not sure if it's common for this age, if it's his personality, or if there are a whole variety of factors all coming into play. I have to admit though, it's not his best quality.

This drive also does not bring out the best in him. He will stack the deck before playing a game of cards. (Sweetly, but perhaps counter-productive to his end-goal, he will also stack the decks of other players.) He will brag about how he was the fastest in his skating class... even if he wasn't.

He hasn't been as into swimming lately and has saying that he wishes he could go back to his previous level. Last week I watched his class a little more closely than usual to see what was going on that could be making him feel this way. I observed that his swim instructor seems to pit the kids against each other in many of the drills that they do. The mama bear in me wants to call the head instructor and ask if something can be done differently --cooperative games rather than competitive ones --more time in the shallow area of the pool where The Bean feels safe and secure. The rational part of my brain tells me to back off and let me experience what it's like not to be the best.

In many ways I can relate to his frustration. I hate it when I know I've messed something up. I don't like to be second best or to know I could have done better. I can be very hard on myself. I put a lot of stress on myself worrying about things that are often relatively inconsequential.

While I want The Bean to do his best, I don't want him to think he has to be the best.

Has anyone been through this with their kids? Any words of wisdom? How would you deal with a kid who has to be the best.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Community

Over the past few months, and even more so over the past few days, I've been thinking a lot about community and how important it is.

For the first time in years I'm starting to feel sort of more okay with the way things are in my life right now. I still really, really miss teaching and if the right opportunity presented itself I would take it without too much reservation,but there would be some reservation. A big part of my reservation would come from the fact that I would have to take a step back from how involved I've become in our  local community.

I love that I've gotten to know all the administration and staff at the kids' school. I've become close friends with several of the other parents. I feel like I am being useful when I go in to volunteer to prepare snacks or help the grade ones with their reading. I've had parents reach out to me when their in a bind and need someone to pick up their kid from school and watch them for a little while until they're available, I've been able to be a resources to parents who's kids are struggling academically and socially. I also take comfort in knowing that there are people who would happily do their best to help me out if I needed it. People who I can talk to when I'm frustrated, or unsure of what to do, or when my kids are just being so sweet that I want to share it with someone.

Similarly, I'm really thankful for the time I've been able to spend volunteering at the kids' programs at the community environmental centre. Spending time outdoors is hands down one of my favourite things. Getting to nurture the same thing in kids... it's just the best.

There's also this blog community. It's changed over the years as many of us have gotten busier, worried about privacy, moved things on to other social media sites, etc. But still, I've found it so reassuring to be able to catch glimpses into the lives of other families like our own. To know that there are parents out there who have the same concerns and struggle with the same issues. (BTW, I miss all of you who've moved on!) I've made wonderful friends who I would have likely never met otherwise. I never expected to build relationships like the ones I have when I first started out here nearly seven years ago.

And finally, the community I've been thinking about the most these past oh, say, six days, the other feminists who have worked so passionately to gain equal rights for all people. How exhausting it can be, how frustrating, but also how rewarding it is to come together and recognize each other. To see how far things have come and to encourage each other to keep momentum. To say I am disappointed in the current political situation in the United States is an understatement, but seeing these huge groups of people worldwide organize themselves, to stand united and say, "We are not okay with this!" I've found it moving.

Together we are stronger.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Bean is Six Years Old!

The Bean is six years old!


This little guy is growing up. The past week we not only discovered that his six year molars have erupted, but also that his bottom central incisors have started to push their way up behind his just slightly wobbly baby teeth. Though I should have been expecting it, I was still caught by surprise.

Physically he's still small, but he's pushing 40lbs and has definitely stretched out in the past few months (about 3'8" inches at the doctor today). All of a sudden his ankles are sticking out the bottom of his pants and we're having to move him into the next size up in all his clothes (Size 5 pretty much across the board, and size 12 shoes). Even his face is changing. Whatever roundness there was to his nose and cheeks and chin is starting to become more angular. Of course, he still has his big, round, blue eyes.

It should be no wonder that he's growing, given his appetite. A few months ago he was eating two and three servings of breakfast, which has slightly tapered off, but his lunch bag comes home empty and he almost always follows up dinner with a desert and then a plate of (vegan) cheese crackers... and sometimes a piece of fruit after that.

His favourite food is grilled cheese sandwiches. He also likes Campbell's Tomato Soup, french fries, and cashews. He's good about eating fruits and vegetables (which he likes with a generous dash of salt) and meat as long as there's ketchup to dip it in. Mealtime is rarely an issue with him. He mostly drinks water, though if there is juice around he'll want that.

Dairy is still an issue. We haven't really done anything further to figure out what's going on with his digestive problems. Both Jen and I strongly suspect that he has IBS, which is next to impossible to actually diagnose. So, we cut out dairy, maybe one day we'll try eliminating other common triggers or having him go through a full allergy test, but for now this seems like enough.

He remains incredibly active. He's excelling at gymnastics. I can't help but think they'd be recruiting him for the competitive stream if he were a girl. Maybe it's best that it's not an option for him though --while he certainly enjoys himself when he's there, it doesn't seem to be a passion. He moved up a level in swimming, which he's also doing well in, now swimming short distances on his own. On Tuesday he started ice skating, which he was very excited about. He dreams of playing hockey, but Jen and I are unlikely to allow that to happen. Really he's the kind of person who'd be happy to jump into any game or sport. He's already talking about joining the "Kilometer Club" (school track team) next year.

And while he's always been active, his ability to sit still has also increased. He loves, loves, LOVES to read. He can make it through short novels independently. Magic Treehouse has been a long time favourite, but he's also reading some A to Z Mysteries, Nancy Drew and other books from school. I'd guess he's reading at a late grade two level --he rushes so his comprehension isn't always as good as it could be, otherwise he might even be beyond that. It's shocking to see him read words like "throughout" without even the slightest pause. His writing has also really taken off since the last update. He still prefers that many words be dictated to him, but can sound things out on his own and loves writing cards and notes to mail to friends, often accompanied by a cute picture of a stick-figure boy skateboarding or dinosaurs or the like.

He also enjoys playing games. He hates losing, so that's something we're working on, but he'll rarely pass up an invitation to play cards, or Mancala and is even getting into chess thanks to our neighbour who's been learning at school. (I've never been a chess player, but I think I'm going to have to learn.)

He's also really into playing games on the tablet and more recently, the Wii. We try to stick to downloading educational apps, but Epic Skater and Angry Birds have made their way in there. We're strict about guns and haven't allowed him to play Minecraft and other games that are more violent.

He's still very into superheros and StarWars, and has recently added Ninja Turtles and Transformers to the list. I think he's seen one episode of Ninja Turtles and everything else he's only seen in books. Transformers were the one toy he asked for at Christmas, so probably needless to say, he received a few. He will play with the figures as well as toy cars and blocks and other things, but like his sister, he mostly seems to enjoy pretend play.

Fortunately for us all, the two of them get along quite well. They know how to push each other's buttons, but mostly they try to keep each other happy. The Bean has a few "best" friends in his class this year --one SK and one in JK. He still hangs out a good bit with one of his closest friends from last year, as well as friends from outside of school like Teagan and Quinn and his oldest buddy from when we were in birth class.

He seems very happy at school this year. His teachers often comment on what a good role model he is in the classroom and how he's always very eager to help. I think it's been nice for him to be in the same class for two years, I think he really sees himself as leader this year. We were very happily surprised when he was chosen among all the students in the school to receive the "Mindfulness" award. The class has a yoga teacher come weekly and work with them on various strategies --she and the teachers picked The Bean as the student who they felt made the greatest effort to understand and use these strategies to help in difficult situations. Go Bean!  (Funnily, he will often try to "coach" Sprout when she is upset, which usually just ticks her off.)

I guess the last thing to hit on is sleep. Not to jinx things, but we've been doing pretty well lately. The Bean is a lot like Jen in that he NEEDS sleep and doesn't fight it too much. He's become a bit afraid of the dark and being alone in his room, but most nights if we leave the door wide open and the bathroom light on he'll fall asleep pretty quickly. Recently he's been waking up in the night and coming into our room, which results in a bit of musical beds. He's usually up between 6 and 7am, so getting between 10 to 12 hours a night, since he's usually down by 7:30/8:00pm.

We're pretty smitten with the six year old child and looking forward to all that this year holds in store for him.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Sprout is Four Years Old!

I'm a few weeks late on this, but...

Sprout is Four Years Old!


To think, three and three quarters one day and four the next! Overall I think she's pretty pleased with this milestone, though she is adamant that she is four years YOUNG and not very old at all. Literal little girl.

The longer I've been a parent the more I realize that despite all the little changes, that these kids don't really change that much. Sprout at four is the same funny, affectionate, stubborn, sweet kid she's always been.

I think the biggest change has been her growing independence. The transition to school has been a fairly easy one. There were a few days of tears at the beginning, some clinginess here and there, but overall she seems quite happy. Having her big brother there surely helps. All our pick up and drop offs last year, as well as visits to the classroom and tagging along on field trips probably also made a significant difference. She was quick to make a few close friends and seems to be able to follow the routines and rules. She's the youngest in the class, but her teachers have often commented on how mature she is. I don't think she hesitates to participate and though whining or crying at home isn't uncommon, she seems to do a better job of "using her words" to express herself when there's a problem at school. Her academic skills are where I'd expect them to be. She recognizes letter and knows their sounds, but is only just starting to grasp how they come together to form words. She can count quite high with help on transitional numbers, but usually misses out on fourteen. One on one counting is good into the teens. She asks pretty fantastic questions and every once in a while they give insight on how she's trying to piece together things in her mind and build her understanding. I love witnessing that. Her fine motor is weak (she'll often use a palmar grasp if not reminded), but coming along. She still draws people as a head with legs, but has started adding more detail to her artwork and uses lots of colour.

Her gross motor skills are improving. She became quite a little fish while we were at the beach this summer and moved up a level in swimming this fall. Her control on the scooter is good enough that she can ride the six blocks or so to school. She also started riding a bike with training wheels this summer. She took gymnastic through the fall and the changes from this time last year are shocking; Not only is she much more focused, she has much better body awareness and control. It's also evident on the playground where she confidently runs, climbs and jumps and swings.

She wakes up grumpy most mornings and needs a good few minutes to adjust. She often wants a morning snuggle from Mama, but prefers everyone else leave her alone unless they're taking of her pull-up or making her something to eat. Once she's awake she's a little chatterbox with lots of ideas about what she and everyone else should be doing. She mostly dresses herself and has become quite opinionated about what she wears. Though there's no real rhyme or reason to it though layers, purple, sparkles and animals all seem to be popular themes. We call it "Sprout Styles." Her hair is usually half brushed and covering half her face. It's starting to get longer again and is still that same gorgeous auburn colour. She's a bit of a ragamuffin.

She's really stretched out and is mostly in size four clothing now. Shoe size seems to be about an 11. She's still got round rosy cheeks and a little belly.

She is a good (not great) eater. Breakfast is heavy on the carbs. school lunch is usually just a sandwich, fruit and vegetables. I've learned not to over pack snacks for her school lunch because she will eat them first and skip the healthier stuff. Dinner we pretty much insist that the kids eat what we've made. She is a painfully s-l-o-w eater. Even the lunch supervisors at school comment on it, but if given the time she does eat. Her favourite dinner is probably soft-shelled tacos. She's a little cheese monster.

Her speech is getting clearer. I am still going to request a referral to a speech pathologist when we go in for her well-check next week. Her Ls and Rs aren't clear and though most people seem to understand her when they're listening carefully, there's definitely room for improvement. Her vocabulary is excellent and I hesitate to correct the misspoken words (e.g. "I was borned on Christmas Eve") because I know they won't be around too much longer.

Though she doesn't read independently, she is a little bookworm. She loves being read to, though we don't do it nearly as much as I did before she started school. She's really into Dora books and princess stories. It's interesting how much she gravitates towards "girly" things, especially as I don't feel like Jen or I don't really strongly encourage it.

Aside from books, she loves dolls and pretend play in general. She and The Bean still love to play together --orphans, babies, doctor/vet, school, dogs... you name it. Most of their play falls into the make-believe category rather than the playing-with-toys category. Maganatiles being the biggest exception.

She adores animals and Jen and I will call her Snow White because of the way she refers to birds as her friends and insists on making eye contact with dogs and talking to them while she scratches behind their ears.

She stopped nursing mid-August. It was not by her choice, but I was ready for her to be done. She actually did really well initially because we timed it with our trip to the beach and did a lot of talking beforehand about how when we went to the beach there would be no more nursing. We should have thought it out a bit better, because she was pretty sorely disappointed when we got back home and I had to explain that there was no nursing at home anymore either. Still, she adjusted. It seems to be a pretty distant memory now, though if asked she will say that she misses it.

She's still pretty attached to me, but it feels like that's evening out a bit and she's starting to go to Jen for comforting and general interaction more than she has in the past. Grandma and Paul are still her "best friends", though I'd say her true best friends are probably The Bean and my cousin's son who she spent so much time with last year. She has a lot of very sweet friends and her social circle has definitely grown since starting school.

Sleep is maybe, slightly better. She has her ups and downs, I guess. She goes to sleep in the bottom bunk of the kids' bunk beds, but sometimes calls out or comes into our room partway through the night. I find it easier to sleep in her bed than to fit Jen, myself and her into our bed. I'm sure one day I'll miss the night-long cuddles, but right now a night where she stays in her own bed without waking up all the way until the morning (6am) feels like a blessing.


She's a bit of a goofball. She is bossy. She gets shy in new social situations. She's snuggly and can be just as sweet as can be. I love this little four year young creature will all of my heart.