COVID Kinder

We booked a long road trip at the end of August thinking it would be Cam’s 3rd week of virtual school. As such, we thought we would have the hang of it and could apply our virtual school learnings to the road.

Then, the school year was pushed back and his first day, a Thursday, fell on the 6th day of our trip.

So, as it went, Cam took his first official day of virtual Kindergarten from our Airbnb in Grants Pass, Oregon.

The first and second days were really just about meeting the teacher, learning rules and getting oriented, so they were easy to handle. But I will say it was a unique thing to be starting elementary school from a place other than our home.

Cam had a great attitude… you can even see he was cooperative for photos, which is not really his thing, so that means something too.

My mama heart bursts when I look at these photos.

Saaaaaavoooorrrrrr (Savor)!

For about a month now, one of our family mantras has been “savor”.

I was watching Cam wolf down a bowl of ice cream, large bites, scooping the next one before he had even swallowed the one in his mouth, and then when the bowl appeared empty, he stuck his face inside and licked the sides.

To say Cam and Demi like sweets is an understatement.

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So, one afternoon, I asked Cam if he knew what the word “savor” meant. And he did! But we discussed what it really meant if you applied it to meals or desserts. It means to enjoy the bite that is in your mouth without thinking about the next bite. It means taking your time through a meal or a dessert so you get the most out of it.

Shockingly, this worked.

Maybe a little too well.

Case in point: Cam now will fish chopsticks out of our utensil drawer for his dessert. He’ll poke the end of it into the dessert and lick the tip of the chopstick. He’ll ask everyone around him how much dessert they have left and flaunt that he still has the most. He’ll arguably make more of a mess while his dessert turns to mush and he drags it around the house or yard.

Other case in point: Demi and I went to the grocery store the other day and it was getting toward dinner time, so we were both in need of a snack. I opened the cheddar popcorn and handed her some on a napkin while I kept the bag. I am a big fan of cheddar popcorn, so apparently I was shoving fistfuls into my mouth while I drove. Lo and behold my 3-year-old called me out from the back seat. “Maaaaaa-maaaaa! You’re not savoring!!”

I guess these unintended consequences are still better than where we started. There is rarely a meal where we don’t talk about savoring and generally speaking I think that’s a really good thing!

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First Outing Since COVID: Joshua Tree 2020

It’s been a long time since we’ve ventured out of La Mesa and it’s been an eternity it seems since we have slept somewhere other than our own beds on little ol’ Samuel St.

We booked an Airbnb in Joshua Tree with the intent of just not being at home for a couple days, watching critters, going on adventure walks and treating ourselves to some delicious meals.

Cam and Demi were so excited that Cam had a 12 day countdown taped to his door that he marked off as it was getting closer. He tried to negotiate 10 nights away instead of 2. When that didn’t work, he tried to negotiate 5 nights. Demi asked daily if “today is the day we go to the vacation house?”

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The morning we left, the kids were so excited they fought over what to pack like I’ve never seen before. Cam was shoving things in brown boxes and taping them shut (his form of packing), and both of them were so emotional and out of control, they just wanted to be on the road. I was slightly unnerved by their intensity and fighting, but Joe knew they were just excited and was mostly cool and laughing about it.

Against all odds, we made it. Here’s a cutie little video of the adventure we had, which ended up being a LOT more adventurous than we’d even expected. We did the whole Joshua Tree loop, hit up the Giant Rock in Landers, hiked Coyote Hole, built stone towers, watercolored and smores’d our hearts out.

The official critter-spotting list includes:

  • Quail families
  • Regular rabbits, jackrabbits
  • Chuckwalla lizards, regular lizards
  • Praying mantis
  • Roadrunners
  • Mice and kangaroo rats
  • Bats
  • Coyote
  • Velvet ant and horned beetle
  • Hawks and birds of all varieties

Not featured in the video:

  • Their aggressive tug-of-war pre-vacay
  • Demi’s bloody nose and subsequent sneeze spraying the blood everywhere during a car ride
  • Demi’s fall into some tiny spiny cactus that spurred 30 minutes of screaming and just as many minutes of tweezing
  • The horrifying Lander’s Brew patio
  • The excessive whining at the end of our adventure drive “we wanna go to the house!”

All-in-all it was a memorable and wonderful family adventure and a delightful break from what has been too much time on the homestead.

CamO & DemO’s First Camping Trip

***Written weeks ago and now I’m pining over this little moment outside the Covid bubble. Basically, I’m extra grateful we did it and didn’t postpone. Life lesson? Maybe.***

We planned a camping trip for Grandma Monkey’s birthday (mid March). As the weeks whittled down, we watched the weather and it became apparent it wouldn’t be ideal. But, with all the energy spent preparing and hopefulness about the weather, we chose to forge ahead!

From the parents’ review, the trip was mostly successful with very bright spots, but holy smokes, it was a ton of work with a bit of struggle and cold fingers sprinkled in.

As for the many bright spots… we loved the togetherness of 4 families camping and spending time together. We loved letting the kids run free, pedal free, scoot free. We loved figuring out tasty meals made on the open flame, sharing stories and drinks, sitting around the campfire, chatting with neighbors, and leaving the digital world behind (ZERO cell service as Covid news was rapidly unfolding) in favor of idle time among the trees and other super chill campers.

As for the struggle, we packed a lot of clothing, used almost all of it, and we packed a lot of food, used almost all of it. The kids, of course, enjoyed the rain while they were running around wild, but then were suddenly cold, wet and muddy and in need of immediate warm and clean clothing, snacks or meals.

And sleep was brutal, no matter where we were situated. It was very cold outside, but sweltering inside the cabin. The brand new air mattresses were squeaky as they rubbed against the wood bed frames, and the confusion of soothing half-awake children numerous times throughout the restless night meant that both Regina and I were basically on-alert all night long. Night two was slightly better with an additional cabin and fatigue (and cocktails) knocking us out, but when people say they come home from camping feeling rejuvenated, I have no clue what they’re talking about. Perhaps just their spirit?

From the kids’ point of view, I’ve gotten mixed reviews (haha!). Cam saw the minimalist cabin when we arrived and said, “this isn’t what I was thinking. This isn’t as fun.” He heard ‘cabin’ and envisioned the full houses we’d rented before in Big Bear. But then, as we were leaving, both kids were very upset. Cam asked if we could do it again “in two weeks.” And Demi, who has become very close with Morgan, was sad the time with her was over. When we left the campground, Demi was in tears.

Both kids can agree, however, that riding in the cars from cabin to campsite without seat belts was a total thrill. Other things they enjoyed:

  • playing frisbee with neighboring dogs Romeo and Butón (French for button)
  • our Mila dog being able to run free and adventure with us; she was attached to Joe’s side
  • staying up late and having a big old slumber party with friends and family
  • jumping and running around the campsites, logs, rocks and roads
  • biking and scootering around the campground with little worry of traffic… Cam finally got the bug to start working on his bicycling skills, which he has carried home (yay!)
  • our Saturday night meal… Cam had three servings of steak and exclaimed that the sweet potatoes made him feel funny inside
  • collecting treasures like leaves, flowers, rocks, bones (lots of fish bones at the lake), seeds and other found objects
  • having way more sweets than usual including delicious s’mores
  • Monkey’s birthday breakfast in Aunt Emily and Gabriel’s trailer
  • petting a snake at the ranger station–her name was Lucy

One of my favorite moments was on Saturday after our big, delicious meal and s’mores when the fire was blazing and everyone on the trip was sitting around laughing, chatting, enjoying, and Demi fell hard asleep in my arms. She is starting to get past the days of sleeping in my arms and it was glorious. I sat with her warm and snuggly asleep in a blanket with noise and music in the background. Even when we drove back to the cabin and I situated her in bed, she didn’t flinch. She was worn out from the adventure of camping.

I learned SO MUCH from this trip and I feel far more equipped to tackle another adventure in the wilderness. I hope we can get a couple more together this summer (when it isn’t in the 40s/50s!!) and start to get our prep and planning simplified so it’s less labor-intensive and more quality-time intensive.

Demi Grey Turned Three!

On March 4th Demi turned three! It was the second of three very busy weeks for our family, so we opted to have her birthday on the 1st, before her actual birthday and, sadly, it was one of the last get togethers before the dreaded virus came to town.

Luckily, we had a great turnout. We feasted, we sang, we played in the rain, we talked like mer-cats and celebrated this sweet girl.

Here is an impromptu interview with Demi at three years old:

I think some of her answers are accurate and others are just tip of tongue, but it certainly shows a bit of her personality.

Here are a few photos from her birthday party. Once again, she (and we) is/are lucky to have such a supportive family and friend group. It’s a good problem to have when you don’t have enough chairs in your house.

The Unfortunate End of “Brudder”

Demi has referred to Cam as “brudder” for as long as she could make reference to him. It’s been at least a year and a half. And it is SO charming and sweet.

“Where’s brudder?”

“Brudder, what are you doing?”

“Goodnight, brudder.”

Well, about a month ago, I was feeling silly and teased her lightly. She said something about “brudder” and I responded with “Huh? You want butter?”

We went back and forth and she got (playfully) frustrated and exclaimed “NO! I mean CAM-DEN!”

And that was it. That was the end of “brudder.” Cold. Turkey!

I never intended on squashing that darling little pet name. I regret my teasing immensely.

At this point, she has gone as far as to correct us as well. If we ask her about brudder, she says, “You mean CAM-DEN!!!”

I will certainly be more thoughtful about my teasing henceforth. And may I never forget her little voice exclaiming “brudder!”

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Growing Brains and Bodies

It’s a cliché but it’s so true that my little kiddos are becoming not so little way too quickly.

A little evidence for your perusal…

Cam’s learning so much at school. He has conquered the alphabet and beginning sounds and is now working on second hard sounds in words, while also practicing his letters and writing constantly. This is one of several writing samples he brings home every week. While he didn’t get “don’t” in this example, his teacher said he’s doing great with second hard sounds, among the top of the class.

Cam's writing journal

Cam is also figuring out phones beyond the games designed for kids. He can open our phones, hide away, do silly things, and he has even composed a couple of his first texts (emojis + his name). Here are a couple photo gems I discovered he took, probably knowing they would make me laugh.

We started reading more involved books, which is such a relief after 5 years of kid books. His first chapter book was James and the Giant Peach. Then, Cam and I read The Mouse and the Motorcycle, followed by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. It is really fun to read children’s literature with him now because there’s just so much more substance.

Reading Real books!

In terms of physical changes, Cam’s ever-present frog belly, the one he has had since 3 weeks after birth is officially and utterly GONE. He is skinny. He has knobby little knees and abs you can see when he’s wiggling around his room between baths and bedtime. His elbows dig into me when he’s climbing on my lap. While I didn’t want him to be a little chubby buddy forever, it’s hard letting go of the natural toddler/small kid chub that made him so darn cute.

While he has had a mega appetite for two weeks now (double the kid meals each meal of the day, and can also eat an adult meal faster than me), and I’m sure he’ll shoot up another inch when we’re busy blinking, he hasn’t grown height-wise in 3 months.

This fact doesn’t matter, at all, unless you’re a 5 year old. He asked me to measure him a few weeks ago against our cabinet door where we’ve been tracking height. I was certain he would be taller than 3 months ago because that’s the way it is with kids. However, I couldn’t even fake it. He was the same height as a few months prior and he did not take the news well.

He. Was. Devastated. He was so sad he ran to his room and curled up crying in the corner. He brought it up multiple times after that, restarting the cry-fest.

Measuring kids' growth

So far as I can tell he is in the middle or maybe a little taller than half his class and his Dr. visits show him as mid-60 %ile, so he’s going to be fine, but for now, we’re hoping for a little growth to get him back on the right emotional track!

As for Demi G, she is also growing in mind and body. She is, and always has, been so independent, but that has translated to early everything. She dresses herself, she potty trained herself, she wants to do her hair herself, she wants to cook/climb/create things herself. Her language skills are still advanced and so helpful to us. It’s rare we don’t know what she’s trying to communicate.

While we haven’t been to a well visit in a long time (we will be soon for her 3-year), she’s pretty tall, and her hair has sprouted! Look at these locks!

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She desperately wants to keep up with “brudder” on all levels. While she wants to do all the same things and act in the same way as him, she also wants to prove it, so she gets upset when she hasn’t had her turn to try or to show what she can do.

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She even thinks she wants the same food as Cam until I serve it to her and she realizes she likes it her own way.

A few days ago, there was a sweet little first. I was comforting her after she woke up grumpy from a nap. Cam was occupied with Morgan who was over playing and Demi continued to whine in my arms. Eventually she said, “I just want brother”… with tears on her lashes, it just melted my mommy heart.

Most of the time she’s trying to keep up and forge her own path, which has led to a lot of quick development, but I do love when she’s dependent and clingy. She’s the little one and I’ll cling to her too!

Night Talks

For several months now, our nighttime ritual with Cam and Demi is to read books, turn out the light, talk about our favorite parts of our days and then turn on music and go to sleep.

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And for several months each of their responses for the highlights of their day have been fairly appropriate for their age–they just say something that’s easy and top of mind, like, “My favorite part of the day was when you came home, mommy.” Or, “Eating ice cream!”

I always have to work on Cam for what he learned, or what was interesting at school, or anything beyond the surface.

This evening though, I got some thoughtful highs and lows from his day and I loved it! First he told me that there was actually a “bad part of the day”. He described the trees at his school and how they have big roots and told me he tripped and fell over the root, split his jeans and got a bloody knee. He then showed me the cut. Oh man he was cute talking about this big mishap.

Then he said, “Oh and there was a funny part of the day too!” He went on to tell me that he was playing at the water table and his classmate Seth knocked it over and it splashed all over him. And he laughed and was looking at my reaction to see if I thought it was funny too.

He asked me about my day and I told him it actually wasn’t a great workday because one of my coworkers quit and it was sad because I liked working with this person. I said I won’t really be seeing them or working with them anymore.

Cam then said that it was kind of like when his 3rd grade buddy (they are paired with a 3rd grader for a once weekly activity) moved away and wasn’t going to his school anymore. He said he wouldn’t be seeing them anymore.

I just loved everything about this little conversation–that he is really thinking about his day and determining what to tell me, that he is clearly starting to feel more comfortable at school based on his willingness to dive into the details, and that he was able to relatemy work situation to his world. 

I don’t always love how quickly these kids are growing up, but I do enjoy the perks of his growing brain and the new levels of interaction we get to have. ❤

Moments Like These

I’ve heard other parents who have boys and girls talk about their children being best friends. This is a fairly foreign concept for me because my brother and I were friends…. only when nobody else was around for us to play with. And only when I followed my brother’s rules for all the games. And only when we were between the ages of 5 and 11. After that, no promises.

Well, I don’t know if it’s that 2.5 year age difference (both my brother and I, and Cam and Demi) that inspires competition, or if it’s just something in the differences (or similarities) in their personalities, but I don’t get the feeling Cam and Demi will be “best friends.”

That is okay. I acknowledge that they can have a good relationship regardless–that they’ll have a shared experience in life, and will hopefully respect and support each other.

But, now, at 2.5 and 5 years old, we’re seeing small moments where they cooperate and it’s so lovely that it almost cancels out all the conflict and crying. I think Cam will enjoy showing his sister how to do things over the years, but I can tell that Demi only wants a certain level of help because she is so proud of her ability to do things by herself.

As an aside, Cam asked me if I wanted to practice math with him. So, he wrote out a couple equations on paper (addition only for now). He got both of them correct, even with his cute backwards 4. Then he demonstrated the equation in objects. I love watching his brain develop now that he’s in school. His advancement seems faster than I was expecting. Here’s 3 (acorns), plus (indicated by a magnet) 4 acorns , equals (another magnet) 7 (acorns).

Cam Equations

When I asked him how many letters in the alphabet, he cheated by counting the alphabet puzzle spaces, but he nailed “26”. I haven’t really seen him count objects accurately when the numbers get that high. So, another success!

He Said “Yay”… Sigh

Cam has been at TK for 6+ weeks now. As already mentioned, the transition has been tough–even if we were just talking about making eight kid lunches each week (5 Cam + 3 Demi)! Side note: mad respect for my parental units for the insane number of lunches they prepared over the years. There were thousands!

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Parent Night was about 2 weeks ago and we were welcomed into the classroom (sans kids) in the evening to learn a bit more about how Cam’s class runs and what his day looks like. While we were encouraged about the structure and appropriate lack of structure (lots of play!) for our 4/almost 5-year-old, we heard a couple pieces of feedback that basically ripped my mommy heart right open.

His teacher said that he eats alone and plays alone. And she said that when she has her 2-minute meeting with him each morning, she asks how his heart is… while most children say “happy because I played with my daddy this morning” or similar, Cam says “fine”. And when she asks what that means (happy? sad?) he says “in between”.

While I rationally knew Cam was okay and a happy, normal and smart kid, those things were not comforting because I just wanted evidence of his happiness. I feared that a difficult TK experience and slow integration with his classmates could impact his mindset regarding school forever. I also knew that was extreme, but I’m a mom, so obviously I went there.

You can see Cam practicing his letters in the upper-left of this photo and some of his classmates posing with pipecleaner glasses (I’d like to think Ms. Labshere did this to make Cam not feel alone in his glasses-wearing):

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It took me a week to not cry about the whole situation. Then another week to realize that everything is A-OK. Even, perhaps good.

First of all, Cam is by nature an observer, so it makes sense that he wouldn’t dive into new social situations right away. He is also an introvert, so it’s not in his comfort zone to attach himself to new friends quickly. Further, he was taught at his preschool how to govern himself and play independently. He was acting according to what he’d been taught for the last 2 years.

So many lovely people (family and friends) helped me with this bigger, more balanced perspective. I needed perspective as I was battling emotions and trying not to think about Cam while I needed to focus on an intense couple of work months.

All the while, Cam was also starting to find the joy in school that I thought may have been missing.

The week after Parent Night, in our final playtime before bed a few nights in a row, Cam began asked if we could play school. And so we did. Cam was the teacher and he reenacted his days at school in elaborate (and accurate!) detail.

A kid who isn’t happy at school wouldn’t want to relive it before bed. That is for sure.

In this first photo, the kids are wearing the police hats they made after meeting one of his classmate’s parents who is a police officer. It is part of their “Community Helper” unit.

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And in this (brutal) photo from that evening at home, Demi and I are wearing our matching hats that Cam taught us how to make:

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So, I’ve started fretting a little less and I’ve recognized that he just needed more time than the quick transitioners, the extroverts and the go-with-the-flow-ers (that is a thing, I know because my colleague Jessica has a son of the same age who is chill in all situations and does exactly as he’s asked. I digress…)

Tonight, after books and before falling asleep Cam asked if tomorrow was a school day. When I said “yes”, he said “yay!”

That is serious progress.