Friday, September 28, 2007

My Preschooler: Update

My boy seems to have adapted to preschool life. He isn't over the moon about it or anything, but he seems to find it exciting enough.

I keep waiting for that euphoric feeling of freedom people keep telling me about. I drop him off at school, maybe run an errand or two around town, and then I come home with A to do a couple of small chores. There is a distinct lack of excitement about his time at school. Perhaps it's because preschool is only a couple of hours long, so there's no time to do anything terribly involved. I just end up missing his company. I always feel kind of sad when I come back home with A and he's not with us, coming in the door. Even when I take A to the grocery store or Target, I miss his (endless, non-stop) chatter.

It is nice to have some time with just A, to let her have my undivided attention. We read the books she wants to read and she gets to play the games she wants to play. For four hours a week no one takes her toys. But I can tell she misses her brother, too. She seems a little bored, as though she's at loose ends without her brother to run the show.

We're sending T to preschool because we want him to learn to play in a group of children his own age. We want him to learn to follow directions. We want him to read new books, play with new toys, sing new songs and make new crafts. There area a lot of things we hope he will get from school. But it turns out I'm getting something out of it, too: A whole new appreciation for a chatty, energetic nearly-4 year-old boy.

All Tucked In

This morning the kids and I spent a couple of hours putting the garden to bed for the winter. What you see in the photo are the homemade tomato cages that P put together for me a couple of years ago. He got the pattern for them from Mother Earth News magazine. Nothing says "granola crunching, sandals-with-socks hippy" more than homemade tomato cages from Mother Earth News magazine. But there they are, just the same.

I hate to wax poetic about this about as much as you're going to hate reading about it, but they are the best tomato cages you can imagine. Wide at the bottom, narrow at the top, they guide those bushy tomato plants loosely without pinching them like my wire cages do. The open framework allows easy access to those ripe tomatoes that grow deep within the plant's branches. I really like these frames. We put them up every summer. Even though I know how practical and useful they are, I can't help feeling like our neighbors think we're constructing antenna for alien contact when we put them up in the spring. They are odd looking, especially before the plants grow in. Because I neglected to fertilize, this summer the plants never really did grow in. Tall and leggy, the tomatoes looked rather pathetic. Putting these monstrous frames up felt like overkill. It was not unlike trying to shoot a squirrel with a grenade launcher.

After taking the frames down and stowing the metal cages in the garage (sort of, at least. I'm sure P will have a heart attack when he sees the haphazard manner in which I laid them on the workbench), I took the clippers and trimmed back all of the random tree shoots that have grown unhindered throughout the summer. Even though my garden is small I have the worst time keeping up on it. Random trees and bushes grow from the nooks and crannies of the garden. Weeds overrun the small space once I figure the vegetables are big enough to fend for themselves. Of course, up to this point the garden has been my own project. Either my parents or my in-laws till up the ground in the spring, and my dad keeps me supplied with his surplus seedlings, but the planting and watering and the weeding are all up to me. P certainly looked skeptical last week when I suggested planting a bigger garden next year. I want to grow some garlic and onions, carrots, turnips, and parsnips. There simply isn't enough room in our back yard, much less actual sunny space for a proper garden. I was trying to talk him into making the garden something of a team effort--we could actually mulch! Of course, after seeing the kind of neglect my garden already suffers from, I understand his reluctance to make the garden bigger. I'm sure he feels like the only way he gets spared the work of making our garden grow is to remove himself from the job altogether.

I can't say I blame him. Speaking only for myself, I have to admit that the best part of gardening is putting it away in the fall. No matter how leggy your tomatoes, or weedy your garden bed, once it's all put away you can look forward to a fresh start in the spring.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Up in an Apple Tree

Big Words for a Small Girl

Anna has two new words now: "Button" and "Turtle". They are her first, two-syllable words. I never remember to record "first words". The transition from random phonetical outbursts, to associating these with actual objects, to being actually articulate is such a gradual one that I have a hard time telling when it all starts. For a while, Anna called everything "Da". Me, T, and P, plus the cat and occationally a grandparent.

I'm excited that she's hitting this new milestone. I'll finally know what she wants, before I tell her she can't have it!

Tonight I was making some focaccia bread for dinner. Every time I bake bread, Anna's got her fingers in the dough, pulling off pinches to eat, or pulling on my pant leg frantically begging bits from me. Tonight I was kneeding out the dough and she kept reaching up to pinch off yet another bite. Finally, I turned her around and told her to be off or there would be none left for dinner. She was back a minute later, sneaking another bite. As infuriating as it is, I'm secretly pleased to have a Bite-Sneaker in my brood. T is much more of a Helper. He's content to lick beaters and bowls and tends to keep out of the batter itself, so long as he can help man the mixer. It's so fun how they each have their own ways of getting under my feet.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My Preschooler

The big day has arrived. Here he is: My Preschooler.

It was a big deal, at least for me. I spent all morning in a state of low-grade anxiety, the kind of anxiety that you try to stuff in the back of the drawer so you can pretend it doesn't exist. I didn't want T to pick up on my nerves and become more nervous than he needed to be. So I spent all morning wanting to puke in my hat and trying not to act like it.

When the time came, however, my fears went largely unrealized. There were no tears, no long explainations of how I would be back to get him, no clinging or begging. I showed him the bathroom, pointed out that it was a potty with a LEVER and not an auto-flush, put his backpack in his cubby with him and pretty much left. He was immediately drawn to the BIG, NEW TOYS and could scarcely be bothered to say good bye. I have a sneaking suspicion that a half hour later he REALIZED that I said good bye and became upset, but I'm hoping that by then he'll have had some fun and realize that there was still more fun to be had.

For myself, I went to Target and then took A to Gymboree where I spent way too much money on a little sweater and some socks. I'm sure than very soon I'll come to enjoy this time as much as he will, but for now it feels very strange indeed to be without my big boy.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Preschool: Prologue

Last Thursday was Orientation Day for T's preschool. He will be going to a little preschool a mile or two from our house that's hosted by a neighborhood church. It's a nice little place--nothing fancy, but all I'm hoping for is some good experiences as he learns to play with other kids. It would also be nice if he could learn how to read, but, hey, you get what you can, you know?

The school had a three-year-old class and a four-year-old class. I wouldn't bother sending him to school at all if he had just turned three, but as he is nearly four I feel pretty comfortable sending him to preschool with the other three year olds. He seems ready to me. He's ready for the interaction with other kids his age, he's ready to be challenged in new ways, he's ready to manage a new situation.

I'm a little apprehensive about the initial separation the first few days of school. He's never been one to part happily from my company, unless it's to spend time with his beloved Grandpa and Grandma. He's plenty social and engaged when he knows I'm nearby, but he has some anxiety when he thinks I've left.

We had been talking about preschool some and I tried to explain that it is like his Singing and Dancing class, only he would be there without me and Anna. He would have his teacher, and some friends to play with, but that I would be dropping him off, saying good-bye and that I would be back later to pick him up. Then, he could show me all of the things he had done while I was away. I explained that there would be new toys to play with, stories to read, and songs to sing. He still seemed to think that this was a pretty poor exchange for my company, but I think that after having a chance to see the classroom and play with some new toys he'll do just fine. I will admit to being pretty nervous myself for that first day.

I'm trying to think of some tricks I can use to help ease the adjustment. T really likes timers. I've been toying with the idea of putting a timer in his backpack for him and telling him that he can go and play. When the timer goes off, it will be time for me to come pick him up. That way he wouldn't have to worry about missing me, somehow. I wouldn't even need to set the timer. I could just tell him it's there and hope it gives him the security he needs to let me go for a while. P thinks this is ludicrous, of course. He's more of the "push them out of the nest and see if they fly" philosophy of parenting. I'm worried about making the beginning more traumatic than it needs to be. I've tried not to talk about it too much, or even dwell on the separating aspect of it, but I'm a little anxious and I'll feel better for having a plan to deal with T's worry on that first day. Really, we just have to get through the first day or two. I know he'll love it once he gets used to it.

Any advice for easing the transition to school?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Conventional Wisdom

In order to get myself back on track with posting, I thought I would copy what Mighty Girl is doing over at her blog. She is posting from her book No One Cares What You Had For Lunch: 100 Ideas for Your Blog.

Favorite Advice:

Don't judge people too quickly. Even if you think you know the whole story, chances are you don't so it's best to reserve judgment.

Give yourself more time than you think you're going to need to get some place. You can never tell what might come up to put you behind schedule. If you get someplace early, you can have a book or knitting on hand to amuse yourself while you wait.

It's better underreact than to overreact--unless someone cuts you off in traffic.

Less is more.

Your kids need less stuff than you think they do.

Be patient.

Be kind.

Learn how to make your own bread.

Keep your advice to your self.

Learn how to spell.