Growing Up

Yesterday the director of Ferris’ preschool announced that there were 6 weeks left in the school year. And it triggered that familiar twinge I get each year at this time. Another school year in the books. My babies are another year older.

To add insult to injury, Bowie’s birthday always falls right around the last day of the school year. So he truly does turn a year older.

I know if you’re a parent and you’re reading this that I’m preaching to the choir. It’s tough to see the wee ones grow up into big ones. And then bigger ones. And it’s hard to think about the day they will leave the nest.

I will be just innocently going about my day, relishing in how little my children still are, and then I will see a picture of them from one year ago, and realize just how big they have gotten. And then I say, “Stop growing up so fast!” And I’m only like, half kidding.

But, when they do something completely amazing, like form their first full sentence, or read their first full sentence, or use the bathroom all by themselves, or help their friend up after they fall. Then you’re so proud. You puff out your chest and smile ear to ear, and think to yourself, “I made that. Me. I did.”

I remember when Bowie was little I would think, “Two is just the best age. I don’t want this to end.” But then three was awesome. “Three is just the best age. I don’t want this to end.” And then four was awesome too. And so on, and so forth.

Every new step comes with its own challenges and new horizons. And you look back on the previous years as being so easy. Why didn’t I just slow down and enjoy that more? Why did I think that was so hard?

But, every new step also comes with its own really amazing stuff. Suddenly your kid is capable of things you never even thought of waiting for them to do. And you can have conversations with them. And you can enjoy just hanging out with them. It’s much more relaxing at 6 that it is at 2, for sure.

I know the teen years are hard. Even if only because I was so terrible myself as a teen. But, I know that it will also be great for so many new reasons. And then when they are grown, yes they will leave me, but then I get to watch them go out into the world and become something.

I’ll sit back and watch and think, “I made that. Me. I did.”

boys at the park

 

The Specialness of One’s Needs

I know that a while back, at the beginning of the school year, I was all sunshine and rainbows about first grade and how well I thought it would go.

That’s not exactly the case anymore.

Things haven’t been going well. Bowie didn’t react well at first to the teacher and her methods (and truthfully neither did we). He has a hard time completing his in-class work in a timely manner (compared to the other kids), and it’s been a real hot button issue, apparently.

A meeting was requested with the student-teacher coordinator and a school counselor. They have a record of all the SPD stuff from last year, so we just discussed where he was at, how things were going. And they asked us to have him re-evaluated by his OT, to see where he was at with his sensory issues.

I felt kind of ridiculous when they asked how long it had been since he saw an OT and since we had concentrated on his therapy, and I was like, oh, um, gee, well I suppose it’s been a few years. Parenting ball: dropped.

It was unexpectedly really nice to go back to see the OT, even though it meant my kid still has issues. It felt comfortably familiar. I feel safe at the OT. She understands him, she understands us. All his little tics and habits and antics seem normal to her, like no one else in his life. And she’s got answers!

As it turns out, Bowie has developed a bad grip on his pencil. And it’s causing motor-coordination issues. Something that I didn’t even know to look for, I’m not an OT or a teaching professional, so I would never have known it was an issue. I’m a bit surprised it wasn’t brought up before, and I’m actually thankful that the school made us visit her, because that’s the only way we’d ever have known!

Intelligence-wise, he’s right where he needs to be. Even excelling a bit. So, no worries there. As his OT puts it, with his current grip, he’s just getting too tired when he writes, and he needs to stop and rest and take breaks. Something not entirely conducive to keeping up with his peers. So then he gets reprimanded. And his peers see that, and use it as ammo later. And he acts out.

There’s still a major sensory component. And we’ve added small things here and there in the classroom to help him out with that. The good news is that it’s all fixable. The bad news is it’s to the tune of $500 a month for the therapy, which we just don’t have right now. And insurance won’t cover it until we meet our deductible, but the OT only wants to do sessions until winter break, at which time we will have met the deductible, but therapy will be over.

So, yeah.

The best news is that he likes what he’s learning. He likes to read, he likes math, he likes science. And he’s really smart. I know every mom says that, but really, he is. I mean, I’m not talking ‘gifted and talented’ or anything, but he’s got critical thinking skills, and he can extrapolate on ideas, and I’m just really proud. That’s all.

I hesitate to call him “special needs”. Or to treat him that way. Because there are so many kids out there with much more serious special needs than him. But, when you get the “you’re a terrible parent” stare down from a bystander as he throws a sensory fit in the middle of the farmer’s market, then I feel “He’s special needs.” right on the tip of my tongue.

We do our best to support him daily, hourly, by the minute. But we are also human beings. And the name-calling, the fit-throwing, the hitting, the pushing his brother around, it gets to us sometimes. Being back at the OT means being back in the care of someone who knows how to make this right again. Knows what he needs to bring him back to center.

He didn’t turn the corner sensory-wise until after he’d turned 2. Before that, he was a “normal” baby, no issues to report. He was rarely sick, he was developmentally right on, he was happy and social and outgoing.

So, the change was so abrupt for us. But, we took it in stride. This is what he needs right now, we will do this for him.

And then he had another really great year. Kindergarten was a complete dream for us. Finally he’s acting “normal”, he’s having a “normal” school year, everything is “normal” again. To have first grade not only go so poorly, but to have it going so poorly almost immediately, is a big parenting blow to the gut.

As much as I hate the label, he is special needs. He needs special things from us every day. And from all of the other adults and children he interacts with. For his world to feel right, he needs special things. And as much as I hate to admit it, he’s different than other kids. Even so much different from his brother. The way you need to approach Bowie to ask him something or tell him something is different than it is with other kids. It can be pretty exhausting to deal with that every second of every day, but we are here and we are doing it. I can only hope when he’s grown that he can see that we did our very best. And I hope that by then he’s not so “special” anymore.

bowie swings

When to Start?

Hey gang! My old sharing post that I wrote for Circle of Moms/Pop Sugar a few years back has recently been shared again, and also shared on other sites, so all of a sudden I got this big boost of traffic and new followers. Welcome one and all, I’m so glad you’re here!

What I want to talk about today is if and when you sent your little ones off to preschool. I was recently criticized for the fact that Ferris will start preschool literally the day he turns 2. According to this person, there’s no need to send a 2 year old to preschool, and he’s “just too young. You shouldn’t do that.”

We didn’t start Bowie right away at age two, but he was only 2 1/2. His birthday is in May, so when the new school year began in August, he was 2 and 2 months old. We didn’t get a spot at that time, we got one in December, when he was fully 2 1/2. Honestly, it felt like he was developmentally light years away from where Ferris is right now, and will be in September (when he gets to start). But, Ferris has one of those early fall birthdays, we have a spot waiting for him, and that’s just the way the cookie crumbles.

Maybe it comes across as me just wanting to get rid of him for a few hours a day. Which, I’m not going to lie to you, is a part of it. But, this kid is really, really ready for preschool.

From what I’ve gathered from all the people I’ve talked to over the years who did not or will not send their children to preschool at all, people have two main visions of preschool.

Some people think it is school, as in where you sit at a desk and a teacher teaches and gives projects and maybe you’ll get a little playtime.

Others think it is more like a daycare. They go off to be taken care of by other people for the whole day, 6 to 8 hours, and there’s little to no emphasis on learning or development.

Our preschool isn’t like that. I don’t think there’s a whole lot of them out there. Ours is play-based, and there’s a bit of learning. That’s mostly for the older children (about to head to Kindergarten), but everyone has a dedicated music time, and stories are always read at snack time. The toys and games and activities chosen for the kids are also chosen to help them with specific types of learning and development for their age. Plus, they’re only there for 3 hours a day.

That’s why I’m ok with sending him there on his second birthday. He will love all the things there are to do there, and he will love the social aspect. But even after I explained all of this, that’s when I was told it’s just not necessary.

Of course it’s not necessary. I didn’t go to preschool. A lot of people my age didn’t go to preschool. But just because you don’t have to send your kids doesn’t mean they won’t benefit from it. And it doesn’t mean you’re slacking on your parenting. It just means you’ve chosen to send them to a place that has way more toys and games and activities than you could possibly ever have at your own house, and you’re allowing professionals to spend a few hours a day giving them some guidance.

All kids are different too. Maybe her kids (who are older now) weren’t ready when they were 2. And that’s ok! There have been kids at our preschool that just weren’t ready either. They will drop out of the program and wait a while, or maybe just decide preschool wasn’t for them and never come back. That’s just something we as parents need to evaluate. For our OWN children, not someone else’s.

What say you, readers? Did you send your child(ren) to preschool? How old were they? Did it work out? Would you choose to do it the same way again if you had it to do over again? Have you ever been criticized for sending your child “too soon”?

By the way, we go to a co-op preschool, where I have to work one day of the week. Until baby siblings are one year of age, they can tag along (in a baby carrier while you work). Here’s a picture of Ferris at school when he was about 10 months old. He’s going to LOVE it.

In the Blink of an Eye. And the Yank of a Tooth.

Bowie lost his first tooth!

His class has a tooth chart of some sort, I don’t know a thing about it, he just comes home from school every day with a new tooth chart report of who lost a tooth and who was about to lose a tooth. A few of his classmates have lost 4 or 5 over the course of the school year, and he was beginning to fear he would leave Kindergarten and not have left his mark on the tooth chart.

So, a month or so ago when his two front bottom teeth started feeling a little “wiggly”, the kid was so jazzed, I thought his head was going to explode.

The one that fell out kept getting looser and looser and looser (not as fast as he wanted) until he was able to push it all the way horizontal with his tongue.

It was pretty obvious to us that night that it would fall out VERY soon, and we didn’t want it to fall out in bed, or him to swallow it in his sleep or something. So, we coached him along, and eventually it just popped out. He was very relieved that it didn’t hurt, and he thought it was pretty cool how much it bled.

Now he’s got a big gap, and the tooth next door is also very wiggly, so that gap could probably get bigger. And cuter.

The little dude is about to turn 6. That’s S. I. X. I was in mega denial, but this milestone kinda seals the deal: he’s a bona fide big kid now.

The Playground Structure that Taught Me Something About Myself

Most of the playgrounds in San Francisco have been remodeled, rebuilt, revamped. And they look great, and modern, and they’re lots of fun. Take a look at these pictures of the completely amazing playground at Dolores Park for an (exaggerated) example.

There are a handful that have not been updated since, oh I don’t know, the 70s? 80s? The dangers and hazards at these things are a work of art, yet they oddly draw me in as a mom. They look like the playgrounds I grew up playing at. And I like that.

One such park has no official name, but has been dubbed by the neighborhood the Blue Boat Park, or more simply, the Boat Park. It’s close to our house, and is a neighborhood favorite, and we’ve been there many times for play dates, birthday parties, or just the Mom-needs-to-get-out neighborhood jaunts.

There’s a bunch of stuff at this park for the kids to play on, including, as the name suggests, an old blue boat that rests in the sand, a gloriously tall and skinny metal slide, old school monkey bars and wood, tons and tons of unfinished wood. There were, until recently some amazingly dangerous baby swings, but those have been replaced.

There’s one structure in particular that at first had me a little worried. It’s a wooden structure with a crazy, curvy, old school metal slide and a fire pole. The only way to get up in order to go down the slide or fire pole is to first go up a simple ladder made of metal tubes. Or to go up the slide the wrong way, a neighborhood kid favorite. The structure is also really tall, so you can’t lift your child up onto it.

 The tendency, I think, for a modern American parent is to go up on playground structures with their kid, at least the first few times. Especially if they’re under the age of 3. And especially if it looks like this one. But on this structure, you can’t. There’s just no easy way, or safe way for that matter, to do it. So, Bowie, like all the other kids, had to patiently wait until he was big enough and coordinated enough and brave enough to climb the ladder himself. And that day did eventually come.

I didn’t think a whole lot about it, beyond our first day visiting that park, and being a little disappointed about it. Until the other day when I saw a mother trying as hard as she could to carry her small daughter up onto that structure. She tried and she tried until she realized that it’s not safe to do, and then she finally gave up. But she said, “The city should really just take this one down.”

What? A play structure that’s been there no doubt for decades, and has delighted thousands of kids, needs to come down because you can’t carry your 18 month old to the top?

Now, some parts of my momming are very Type A and helicopter-y. I will admit it. And it’s a constant struggle for me to try to keep all of that anxiety at bay and sometimes just let my kids be kids. But, until I saw this frustrated mom at the Boat Park, I had no idea just how well I was doing with that, and also how far I’ve come since being a new mom.

Once I figured out Bowie was going to have to tackle that playground structure on his own, that was it for me. I didn’t put any more thought into it. I didn’t think the structure was a hazard, or that the way it was built wasn’t fair to the smaller children, or that it needed to come down. I didn’t get worried when he finally did figure it out and went up there all alone. I just shrugged my shoulders and went about my day.

That playground structure is a parental exercise in letting go. And I learned from that exercise that I can let go, when they’re ready, and when I need to. We’ll chat about this again when they’re teenagers, but for now, I’m proud of myself.

Kindergarten

Today we finish up the first two weeks of Kindergarten. I’m still having a hard time believing I’m an elementary school mom now (PTA membership and Room Mom days on the horizon and EVERYTHING). But, I’m sure by the end of the year, after all the packed lunches, morning announcements, Pledges of Allegiance, permission slips and homework that it will all feel natural to me.

The Friday afternoon before the first day, we were able to go see the school, see his classroom and meet his teacher. He was very shy at first, and a little hesitant to even go into the classroom. But, once he started seeing his name all over the room, and once he found his cubby and desk, it was like he’d been going there all his life.

There have been some…behavior issues. But his teacher can already recognize that he’s triggered by lots of commotion and noise, and being with a lot of kids at once. He’s completely fine in the classroom, even sitting nicely at his desk or on the rug and listening when she’s talking. It’s lunch and recess that give him trouble. And it’s largely a product of him reacting to what other kids are doing and saying, much more so than in preschool where he was often the one starting stuff. I’m not going to worry too much about it right now, he’s still adjusting, and so are the other kids. Instead I’m choosing to focus on the fact that he’s behaving in the classroom. A year ago I’d never have thought he could do it.

When he gets home from school, we have the typical “what did you learn today?” “I don’t know.” conversation. But, then if I just sit and listen, as he gets to talking, I find out that he painted, played Mr. Potato Head, saw preschool friends at recess, went to the gym, had a music class, went to the library. He’s definitely becoming a full-fledged elementary school kid. And loving it.

Eleven Months

Ferris is eleven months old today! I can’t believe it. Here’s a few shots of him at eleven months:

Yes, he’s full-on standing now. Not walking quite yet, but standing for LONG periods of time, with impeccable balance, and trying to take steps here and there.

We were sure that because he had crawled so much earlier than Bowie that he’d be walking by now, but he’s not. It’s not far off though, he did take one step forward unassisted a few days ago. And we keep meeting other babies his age who are full-on walking. So, I know it’s coming. I’m bracing myself. He’s already basically into EVERYTHING.

Also, it used to be, I threw one kid’s birthday party, at the beginning of each summer, and then I was done. Now, I have to throw another one at the end of every summer. I did NOT take this into account when I decided to have another child. So, let the party planning begin! (Blergh.)

Dear Ferris,

You are turning 11 months old today. The last of the “months” birthdays before you are a full year, and we just start keeping track of age in years. And you’re doing this two days before your brother starts Kindergarten. What are you guys trying to do to me?!

I’m trying to just take heart in the fact that most of the time, people assume you’re much older than one. But you’re not yet. You’re still my little guy, still an “infant”. (Though barely.) You still take bottles, you still crawl, you still eat purees most of the time. You can’t talk yet, you still take a bunch of naps all day. Still a baby.

But, you’re also so much not a baby anymore in so many ways. You’re pointing, waving, clapping and giving high-fives. You’re taking tiny little steps. You’re feeding yourself all kinds of foods that are not pureed. You laugh at farts. You grab candy off the shelves at the grocery store. You’re a little boy now.

I welcome your first birthday though. With your brother in school all day, I’ll be able to go out and do all the museums and story times and playgroups like I got to do with your brother. We’ll have a good year of mama and Ferris time. I’m really looking forward to it.

Not much else to say, hon. You’re a bit different from last month, a little different than you’ll be next month, I’m sure. But these days you’re not changing so much. You’re just who you are: Ferris. Ferris who likes peas and salmon and pinto beans and chicken and corn and turkey but won’t touch strawberries with a ten-foot pole. Ferris who likes to drink his bottles all alone, with no one around, no matter how much mama tries to cuddle with him and bond with him while he eats. Ferris who would much rather crawl back to Bowie’s room and play with all those awesome big boy toys than play with those silly baby toys.

My sweet baby. For now.

Love you,

Mama

Ten Months

Dear Ferris,

I JUST started getting used to saying that you were 9 months old, and now you’ve gone and turned 10 months old already! That last month went lickety split.

We are in the home stretch now, the first birthday is just 2 months away. TWO MONTHS. That’s only 8 weeks. EIGHT WEEKS. Then you can try all the things, my adventurous little eater. Milk! Nuts! Honey! Eggs! Berries! (Wait, you’ve been eating eggs and berries for a while now, WHOOPS.)

Socially, you are blossoming. You like to “talk” to other babies. Like, A LOT. Social butterfly already. You’re a little wary of grown ups you don’t know super well, and you hide your head in mama’s shoulder. You LOVE to snuggle with mama, and you give such great baby hugs and kisses. THE BEST.

You’re not walking yet, but you’re darn close. You’re cruising furniture like a boss, and you like to pull stunts like this:

And you can climb stuff now, so when I turn my back you’re pulling stunts like this:

You want to do everything big brother Bowie can do! And you’re not afraid to try! Just ask the half dozen bruises you have on your big noggin at any given moment. Good thing you are a second kid, and not a first kid, or they’d have to put me in a padded room.

You’re way ahead of where Bowie was at your age with the crawling and walking and climbing stuff. But on other stuff, you’re doing things a lot differently. You’re taller than Bowie was at your age, but roughly the same weight. Which has made pants shopping a bit of a challenge. ALREADY. Man, just wait until those teen years! Also, Bowie was waking up with dry diapers by 11 months old, and you’re filling up diapers made especially for overnight like you’re testing the integrity of the product (p.s. Pampers, he leaked through one last night.)

It’s funny, I feel like the last month zipped by, but I can also see how far you’ve come in just one month. Growing and changing and becoming a little man right before our very eyes.

Love you, sweetness! Here’s to another great month!

Love,

Mama

 

 

 

Nine Months

Hey Ferris,

You’re nine months old today. Stop it. Just stop it! Stop growing up!

But seriously.

Stop.

You’re a heaping hunk of kiddo, weighing in at 22 pounds and wearing mostly 12 month clothing already. I actually bypassed most of the 9 month sized clothing I had saved from Bowie’s baby days, and took them directly to the kids’ consignment shop, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

You are currently (and very ungracefully) cutting your 7th tooth, maybe the 8th too, but you hardly ever let us in for a peek. I just have to guess by your behavior and appetite and sleeping patterns, and then a few fussy days later get a glimpse of the little grain of rice tooth poking through.

You also have a terrible, unsightly, and I’m sure painful red rash all over your face. I am pretty sure it’s from all the drool you get all over your face, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s it. I started cutting some stuff out of your diet to see if it has any effect. Time will tell. In the meantime, I’ve gotten the 50th different brand of ointment/cream/lotion to put on it that was recommended, so we’ll see if that helps too.

You aren’t walking yet. THANK GOODNESS. Exhale. I really thought you would be. BUT, you are also not far off. You are cruising around coffee tables and park benches like you’re  some kind of one year old or something. Your brother was MUCH older when he started this business. So, you know, you could slow down ANY TIME NOW.

I love how adventurous I am with your food. Yes, me. Not you, me. I was a little hesitant to introduce certain foods to your big brother, and I’m kicking myself in the butt for it. But, I also was more eager to introduce him to things (such as, JUICE, the five-letter J-demon) which I deeply regret. Thank you for drinking bottles full of water at meal time. I am 5 years ahead of schedule with cutting juice out of your diet. Mom win.

At the moment, there’s one 8-ounce bag of breast milk in the freezer. It’s our last, and I can’t decide if I’d rather save it for a rainy day, or just give it to you now. All I do know is that the other night, I thawed our second to last bag and spilled half of it on the counter trying to get it into the bottle, and then cried myself to sleep that night. Still not over the fact that your one year birthday is still 3 months away, but we are not nursing anymore. I know you’re ok, and healthy, and thriving, and still love me and all of that.

Love you too kiddo. Like, SO much.

Mama

 

Five.

Bowie crawled in bed with us at 4 a.m. on his birthday, something about bad dreams. And when he woke up, he turned to look at Brien and the first thing out of his mouth was, “Am I five now?”

He has been looking forward to being five since the day after he turned four. And the day finally came. It was a bright, sunny day, perfect for celebrating a birthday. AND for graduating from preschool. Yes, these happened on the same day. After graduation, we skipped grad parties and drove around in Brien’s VW (aka Daddy’s Race Car) through the park and past the beach. Then we took him out to his favorite neighborhood restaurant for a cheese quesadilla, spanish rice and refried beans–his ultimate meal. After that, we walked to the beach, played with one of the two sets of stomp rockets he got as gifts, and caught a gorgeous sunset. It was a whirlwind of a day for all of us, but in the end so, so joyous and amazing.

Saturday we had his birthday party at our house. It was a rock and roll themed party, so things got fairly hectic. If anyone reading this was around to witness my Mommy Meltdown, I have to apologize to you. Retrospectively, it was a really awesome birthday party, but to have to deal with messes and preschooler arguments and where the pizzas will go and when we will do the cake, all while kids are hitting drums and cymbals as hard as they can, well it can really take the wind out of your sails.

Sunday was The Big Show for his second session of Rock Band Land. He killed it. All the kids killed it. So awesome. I’m actually sad that Bowie won’t be taking it again until September, it has an amazing effect on him. We went to pick him up after rehearsal and he was as chipper as can be. And he sat (mostly) quietly in my lap for the whole show until his performance. I can’t remember the last time he willingly sat still in my lap. And because he loves music and his rock band so much, we decided his big present this year would be this:

Dearest, sweetest Bowie,

I look at you today and I am amazed. You’re so far from baby or even toddler. You’re a bona fide kid now. You’re all limbs and smiles and blonde hair.

You’re super sensitive, and the world doesn’t always understand you. On top of that, you have been through a lot in the past year, but your moxie is still shining through.

You were diagnosed with SPD, just over a year ago. Which on the one hand was so helpful for all of us to know, and we are working to get past it. But on the other hand is so difficult to know and to deal with. I never wanted you to have the sensitive childhood I had, and it breaks my heart to see you dealing with too much sound, too much light, too much touch. Life is hard enough without the extra troubles. But, I can tell you’re a lot more resilient than your mama. And now that we know what’s going on, we can tailor your world for you.

This year, you also became a big brother. Which I know was very difficult for you. To go from being the center of everyone’s world to having to share that spotlight with someone else. But you’re a champ. And that little brother is already looking up to you with some mega admiration. I hope you can and want to set great examples for him in all of your life.

This year you also started Rock Band Land! You have been having SO MUCH FUN making music with Brian and Marcus, and performing at the Big Show. We’re going to look into getting you lessons for any instrument you want–even drums! It was one of the best moments of my life to see your reaction when you first saw your new guitar. You had an amazed and bewildered look on your face, and you turned around and gave your daddy a giant hug, and then gave me a giant hug. And you said thank you over and over all day. You also ran to your room and hand selected a toy for each of us from your collection to say thanks. It was so sweet!

There’s a very, very sweet boy inside of you that I wish the world could see as much as we do. I wish I could walk by your side for the rest of your life to help explain your “bad” and “erratic” behavior to people, but I won’t be able to. But today, I remind myself, you’re only five, and I can still help out for now. We’ll keep working on it, and we’ll get there someday.

My litte rock star. So excited to turn five, so excited to start Kindergarten. Excited to grow up to be “an astronaut. Or a race car driver.”

Future’s so bright, you gotta wear shades.

Five is climbing the dunes at the beach by yourself. Five is not always having to hold hands to cross the street. Five is electric guitars and remote control cars. From where I sit, five is going to be pretty awesome.

Have a great year buddy, I love you.

Mama