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.

Be In Spider!

When I’ve giggled at and re-watched a kid video 3 or 4 times, that’s a sure sign I should put it on the blog.

Demi has a Michelle Obama board book with phrases like “Be Inspired” and Demi likes having us read the words and she repeats them. I can’t stop laughing at her attempts to say the long words. She’s an articulate girl for her age, but she still hangs onto some mispronunciations with common words (we forever call them pinotails, not ponytails, and things like “strillo” for stroller) and she gets tangled in the long words too. I love it.

Here’s the cutie patootie.

Holy TK!

The last couple weeks have been intense. Good, bad, highs, lows, happy tears, sad tears, stressed tears, all the tears.

Transitions are so tough.

First, Cam said goodbye to Taproot where he’s been learning and growing for 2+ years with Mrs. Karla and her crew.

Who cried the most? Me. Followed by Mrs. Karla who wished Cam well in English and in Spanish. “Mi Amor! I will miss you. You’re going to do so good and make lots of friends….”

And Cam? So nonchalant. He mostly had a little grin and maybe disregard? I’m not even sure. The best I can really translate, he was ready for change as much as a Cam can be ready. On the way home from his last day of school we discussed how he might be ready for more challenges, new people, new learning, new toys and he firmly said that he was ready. That gave me more hope than I’ve ever had in a Cam transition.

From Thursday at Taproot to Monday at Northmont Elementary, Cam didn’t really have time to think about and process all the change. He said he was excited, but we weren’t holding our breath.

Then, Monday.

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Cam was so excited in the morning that when I asked if he was ready he said “let’s go right now!” So we went outside where neighbor Kaya was also leaving for her first day of school (different school, 1 grade ahead of Cam) so we snagged a pic before going separate ways.

At Northmont, we also snapped a pic with Morgan, the only person Cam knows in his new school and new class… thank goodness for that.

They hung up their backpacks and headed inside the Ms. Labshere’s classroom and assumed their seats at different tables.

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He showed a little trepidation and as I tried to leave, I saw him put the legos he was working with back into his tables’ box and put his head down on his table. At that point, I made things worse because I’d forgotten to hand him his glasses and re-approached him. His wet eyelashes and nervous stare just wrecked me.

I tried to give him a pep-talk and not cry myself. I handed him his glasses, kissed him and left. As soon as I was out the door, I was crying and his head was back on his desk.

Luckily, he had a great day. Ms. Labshere said he was a happy camper the rest of the day. She attached this photo to an email update to Joe and I:

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The next days are a blur… for Cam probably and me too. Tuesday – Thursday were smooth and then Joe encouraged me to drop him off on Friday in part so I could see his progress and excitement to go to school.

Well, Friday was pretty tough. He cried a lot and clung to me. At some point, Ms Labshere pried his little lizard body off of me and I had to leave quickly.

This week (week 2) was about the same level of smooth and rocky. We had a couple good days, then on Wednesday when he wanted to take his “me bag” to school, but it wasn’t ready yet, he lost his mind. He wouldn’t leave for school and was screaming over the me bag, no matter what Joe and I could think of to say. We tried gentle, loving, encouraging, stern, casual, … and then we gave up. We had to force him into the car kicking and screaming. It was awful.

Thursday, we had his “me bag” ready, darn tootin’. Heaven forbid we lag another day and face the angry and sad snot monster that was provoked the day before. And he could NOT wait to go to school. Go figure.

So, here is a pic of him and a few of his classmates presenting their me bags.

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Inside Cam’s bag:

  • A ziploc full of jewels and rocks, of course! This was for his favorite possession.
  • A drawing of a BBQ chicken pizza representing his favorite food.
  • Photos of his family and his Mila dog.
  • His favorite toy, which was his Ironman… I can’t say I really think this is his favorite toy, so I think there was some 5 year old psychology going on when he picked it, like perhaps he thought it would be cool? His real favorite toys are his Angry Birds game, games in general, string/tape/scissors. Here are the pics of his family and Mila that were in the me bag:

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Overall, I thiiiiiink we’re going to survive this transition. But it certainly isn’t easy, even in the moments when I think things are happy I can’t help but worry about my little guy and wonder what he’s thinking, how he’s doing and if he’s making friends.

I am extremely proud of him. He’s being brave and trying hard and bringing home little tokens of success. Gosh I love him.

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Do You Know How Much I Love You?

Here’s another Cam Says / Demi Says, but holy smokes, this one was a doozy. Let’s start with that one…

Me to both Cam and Demi: do you know how much I love you both?
D: I o’ know (how she says I don’t know)
Me: A lot.
D: Seven?
Me: Way more.
D: Hundred?
Me: Way more.
C: Like a million hundred, ninety eight hundred, ninety eight?
Me: Yeah, more like that.
C: But you wouldn’t want to count to that many. It would take a long time.
Me: I agree, that wouldn’t be fun.
C: Yeah, by the time you get to that number, you’d be gone.
Me: oh?
C: Yeah, you’d be up there. [Gestures to the sky]
Me: Oh. Hmm. Probably….

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Demi was sitting on the counter while I made her breakfast. When I opened the fridge to get out the peanut butter and jelly, I said, “Woah, the fridge is stinky!”

Demi said, “brother poop in it?”

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One day later Demi and I were leaving the house for errands and when I opened the car door I realized the night before leftovers were inside. I said, “Woah, what’s that smell?”

Demi then said, “brother toot?”

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A few days ago I handed Demi a wipe and asked her if she would wipe off her mouth and hand.

She responded sternly with a slight smile, “No mommy, me no wipe my mouth and hands!”

Surprised, I said, “Excuse me, where did this attitude come from?”

She replied, “My mouth!”

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Last thoughts from Cam before falling asleep at bedtime:

Do rainbows only happen when there’s rain and sunshine at the same time?

Does this… [uses his finger to draw a question mark in the air]… mean a mystery?

Creative Tinkerer

Cam’s now closer to 5 than 4 (which is CRAZY!) and his natural talents and preferences are starting to shine through.

For one, his creative skills seem to be progressing quickly. He took to coloring and drawing later than I would have expected and later than some of his peers. He would pick up a pen and a coloring book and spend a minute or so on it, then move along.

But of late, he’s been drawing the things in his head, working through the details and sometimes starting over a couple times. He’s also been spending time on coloring projects and it’s been paying off.

Here are a couple samples:

First, his rainbow tree from school today. What I love about it is that he’s filling in the shapes with his own ideas instead of just filling each space with a single color. Plus, it’s so bright and cheery.

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And here are his workout suggestions from this past weekend where he put together an exercise routine for us to try out in the living room. I was impressed by his attention on how to communicate movements.

Cam WOD

We actually did these, by the way, and I was sweating at the end. Side planks, headstands, squats…. and just laying on our backs wiggling our hands and feet in the air.

He is also a tinkerer–for better or worse!

The most time he has ever spent at one activity has been the times when he’s building a structure, or a trap, or a container, or a game board that mimics one of his ipad games. He is laser-focused on finding materials and constructing or recreating the things he’s observed.

How that translates is Cam running through the house with string, boxes, tape, blocks, containers, scissors (yes, running with scissors) in an intense need to do what’s on his mind.

And he’s good at it too.

Examples:

When he wrapped up literally every movable object in his room for Lauren to open for her birthday.

And on Mother’s Day when he abruptly decided he wanted his treasure chest to be suspended above his tree house. He succeeded in executing that idea by running twine around various poles and branches and pulling it tight and tying about 30 knots.

We were all quite impressed by that one.

Even right now, there is a lego cube containing 2 of Demi’s stuffed animals suspended in our orange tree.

When I say “for better or worse” his tinkering and curiosity has gotten him into trouble as well.

Presently, Inny’s candles from her front room are missing. We also narrowly missed an expensive plumbing bill for all the things he stuffed down Brett and Regina’s master bath shower drain. In the past he has also put jewelry and other objects into grandma Monkey’s toilet. Not to mention all the containers of mine he’s repurposed for his projects and the 17 rolls of tape we’ve gone through in the past month.

Ultimately, I’ll take the good with the bad while I marvel at his development and can’t help but think about where his creativity and curiosity will take him.