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.

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.

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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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.

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….

___

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?”

___

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?”

___

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!”

___

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.

It’s All in the Numbers

Let’s start off by saying I’m glad Cam can’t tell time yet. He also doesn’t seem to have an opinion on what is “a lot” or “little” so I still for now have the freedom of saying we had a lot of sweets when we had the right amount, or that we only have a little time before bed and I can pick whatever amount of time I want.

But, he is getting better at it. He’s better at counting, can recognize most numbers, write some of them, and has heard certain recurring times enough that he knows 8:00ish is time to get ready for bed and 9:00ish is too late.

One thing I really love is when he tries to say the biggest number he knows. It makes no sense and it’s great.

Here we are discussing how long Bugs Bunny takes to eat a carrot (an astute observation that he never finishes the carrot, if I might add):

If you look close enough you’ll see he’s struggling to focus on me at this close distance–which is what we’re trying to correct with his glasses.

Anyway, the conversation was cute and he cracks me up… and that’s all folks!

Anatomy of a Boy

No no no no, not like that. I think everyone knows the true anatomy of a boy. What I mean is… there are some moments in Cam’s life where I can’t help but think he is such a classic boy.

This photo captures one of those moments.

Such a Boy

Here’s the anatomy of my little boy:

  • pajama top
  • no pants
  • rain boots on an unseasonably warm day
  • filthy nose
  • pizza sauce around the mouth
  • bed head
  • brandishing a stick-like object, in this case his beloved broom
  • acting out some imaginary situation
  • not a care in the world!

I cherish these moments and hope he will always be a silly and free little boy.

Cam’s Birthday & Open House at Preschool

Cam’s preschool does a celebration for each kid’s birthday. I was out of town with work, but Joe, Demi and the grandmas attended. They reviewed photos of significant events in Cam’s life and had him walk around the sun, one time for each year. Then the kids got to enjoy a special treat. Ralle, Cam and Joe made fruit snakes on silly straws and the kids gobbled them up!

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But you know the saying…. every party has a pooper. Yes, this really happened. The Olanoffs really know how to make an impression.

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Then, on Friday, his preschool hosted an Open House. Since I don’t get to drop off or pick up, I was a little too excited to have him show me everything. We followed clues around the school to visit all the major areas and he showed me his favorite things. I was impressed by the organized way they play with everything. He’d take an activity tray from the shelf, find a desk, play with the activity start to finish, clean it up, push his chair in and return the tray to the shelf.

I was also impressed by his motor skills. The activities required concentration and coordination and he was really good at doing each activity like pouring sand from one small container into another small container.

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Last, but not least, I almost fell over dead of excitement when he DREW 2 LETTERS! Cam hasn’t been very engaged by pens, crayons, pencils in the past. He’ll scribble for about 15 seconds and then move on to the next activity. So I assumed writing the alphabet was many months away. But he was playing with a letter bubble where you push it and the dice pops around. It landed on a lowercase j. Cam said, “Look! J for Joe!” and proceeded to go to his tray, draw a dot (while narrating “first draw a dot”) and then a curved hook underneath it. Then he pushed the bubble again and a lowercase l popped up. A lowercase l isn’t quite as impressive of course, but he drew a straight-ish line in proportion with the j. *Proud mama moment*

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I also loved how I told him I was excited for him to show me things and he took my hand and led me around telling me all about it. Listening to a 3-year-old explain what’s going on is one of my very favorite things.

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Neighbor Kaya was also at Open House so we got a cutie little photo of them together. One funny thing is that during Cam’s birthday celebration he got to pick a person to come up and look at the photos with him. He chose Kaya and Joe said that 2 girls started crying. Then, at Open House, a little nugget named Elizabeth (who informed me she is also 3 years old) exclaimed “Camman” when we arrived. She ran over to hug Cam and he ran from her. Again on the way out Elizabeth came to say goodbye. Turns out Cam isn’t ready to hug Elizabeth. As best we could get him to explain, he just doesn’t know her very well.

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Camden Cruz is 3 Years Old!

A Portrait of the Boy as a 3 Year Old

He knows his ABCs, although when he sings it, ‘S’ is ‘X’ so there are two Xs (exes? X’? Exi’?). He has recognized “C” on the computer keyboard for a while as well as a few other letters like J for Joe and X (I’m realizing his favorite letter is X). He also has said, “Look at that stop sign! It has an O next to a P and a T and an S!” He can count to 20ish pretty consistently but when there are a lot of things in one place he says there are a hundred or a million of them. He recognizes many numbers like 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 7, 8. He knows his shapes including spheres (pronounced ‘spears’) and cylinders and semicircles.

He has been able to get his bottom half undressed for a while and recently started pulling off his shirt. He can get his pants on now and it’s fun to watch him concentrate as he does it. He is not potty trained but he wants to be. He’s excited about his Paw Patrol underwear and would prefer to wear them though he’s often too absorbed in what he’s doing to recognize he has to go to the bathroom. I think that being at school makes him want to ditch the diapers too because it’s the cool thing to do.

He just started getting into music. Usually after the bath he dances around his room and asks to hear certain songs. He always has another dance move (“Did you see my new dance move?!”).

Favorite books:

  • Goodnight Moon
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar
  • Give a Mouse a Cookie series
  • Clifford

Favorite color: red
Favorite show: Blaze and the Monster Machines
Favorite school supply: tie between scissors and glue
Favorite activities:

  • Going swimming
  • Going on “the cation
  • Building and smashing everything
  • Playing store with a giant box in the garage or in the toy box in the playhouse at Poppy and Inny’s
  • Filling buckets, moving buckets, emptying buckets, repeat
  • Chasing imaginary monsters on our night walks
  • Pretend picnics in the yard or the house
  • Blowing and chasing bubbles
  • Wasting water disguised as washing his hands or watering plants or filling buckets or cleaning dishes etc

Favorite toys:

  • His hammer
  • Hot Wheels racecar track
  • Marble Maze
  • Blocks
  • Anything that lights up. His flashlight, “beary,” his elephant that projects stars on the ceiling
  • Dad’s tools

Favorite movie: none. I’ve discovered that every Pixar, Disney and classic starts with something dramatic. He’s typically in tears within the first 15 minutes and we shut it off.

Favorite foods:

  • Peanut butter and jelly toast, not toasted
  • Every fruit on the planet including loquats, pomegranates and persimmons which all grow in the neighborhood
  • Pizza
  • Cupcakes
  • Salad (this video cracks me up, he’s so excited)

Low points from the last year:

  • Going to the dentist
  • Staying overnight at the hospital when he had his infection

  • When he ate _____________ (fill in the blank with your favorite item below):
    • floss (twice)
    • Chapstick cap
    • licorice from the Vons parking lot
    • hunks of grass
    • sea snail eggs (yes, we called poison control) … sorta can’t blame him. They look like candy.
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    • a stranger’s gum off the ground (this was followed by croup and a trip to the ER… I swear it was the germs from the gum)
  • Tantrums, 50% of the time over milk, 25% of the time over wanting something sugary and the last 25% misc. Even though it’s normal at this age, that doesn’t make them easier or less sad.
  • Starting preschool

High points from the last year:

  • Vacation in Palm Desert
  • Bringing home sister–he had a little gray bunny ready as a gift to her
  • Starting preschool
  • Gymnastics and pool time at the YMCA
  • Going kayaking and paddleboarding and paddleboating
  • Going to Disneyland
  • Riding the train to Oxnard
  • Moving into a new bedroom with a big boy bed

Cam's Big Boy Room & Bed

  • His birthday! If the point of celebrating a birthday is to make someone feel special, then we nailed it! On Saturday, he had a Paw Patrol-themed party with his best buddy Morgan. On Sunday, we went apple picking. On Monday, I took the day off, we went to the lake in the morning, to Urban Jungle in the afternoon and had a BBQ at Poppy and Inny’s house with all his favorite people and all his favorite food. He was genuinely having the best day ever. As a mom, this is all I can hope for.

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