James & Owen’s 1st Day of Preschool

I have a lot I want to write right now but it’s too much. I can’t put my thoughts together. Sometimes, three-year periods bear little change. Others start with you in the NICU with two little people who—combined—weigh less than your cat and end with you watching them walk down your front walk wearing backpacks.

This picture pretty much sums up the morning. James has just found out that we aren’t going to be in preschool with him (we thought this had been made clear much earlier—apparently not). Owen (who is usually our more timid child) is thrilled.

Check out their personalized handmade backpacks. Andy’s aunt Susan made them by request—contact her here if you’d like backpacks, totes, diaper bags, clothes—she can make anything. (The boys love their backpacks. Thanks again, Aunt Susan.)

At one point Owen clenched his fists and just stood on our porch shaking his arms—he was so excited.

James is (sort of) smiling here only because I was making an absolute fool of myself in our front yard, trying to get him excited/cheer him up.

We drove.

James cried.

“Preschool will be fun, James. OK?” Owen said over and over again.

At Country Hills Montessori (the same preschool Sophie went to—the one we fell in love with) we were supposed to kiss, hug and go. Owen knew what to do as soon as he walked through the doors—where to put his backpack, where to wash his hands … Sophie had talked through all these steps with both Owen and James all summer long.

Owen didn’t look back.

James clung.

“What should we do?” I asked one of the teachers, who was at his level, holding her arms out to him.

“Kiss, hug and go,” she said.

So we did.

After I peeled his fingers off my wrist.

We heard the sound of his cry all the long walk back to our van.

(Parenting can be hard.)

The first day was only an hour long.

I spent it at Fort Thomas Coffee, with a latte, coffee cake and a copy of Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings.

I have long designated this future kid-free time as time to work on my freelance projects, excited about the possibility of not editing at midnight. But today, this first day, I designated this time as mine.

I didn’t read, though. I wondered if James was still crying. I uploaded Instagrammed first-day-of-preschool pictures to Facebook. I wondered if either had had an accident. I ate my coffee cake. I wondered if James was still crying.

And then it was time to pick them up.

Mrs. Richter gave me a thumbs up while helping load another set of twins into a mini van in front of me.

They had done well.

They came out, all smiles and waves, wearing the same clothes I had sent them in, excited to tell me everything—excited to go back.

I thought of the NICU, the times I kissed, hugged and had to go. How hard that was. How hard this was. And then how OK and, ultimately, good it all was, too.

The night before, my parents stopped by for a last summer hurrah—Coney Island, Skyline, Graeters. My mom gave me a gift—a beautiful Liberty print handkerchief, with hand-rolled and hand-sewn edges. (It has since seen some use.) And a card, with this written on it:

“Opie: Cage sure looks awful empty don’t it Pa?

Andy: Yes son, it sure does. But don’t the trees seem nice and full?”


James is anxious to start preschool—even though he has awhile. In the meantime he likes to walk around our house with a backpack on while waiting to pick Sophie up.

“I did not have a chance to write novels until my youngest child started school fulltime.” —Anne McCaffrey

(OK, so that quote has more to do with me than James and preschool and backpacks but, I like it.)

Sophie’s New Backpack

Last year I wrote an essay for The New York Times Motherlode blog titled “The Perfect Backpack.” You can read it here.

After all that, we ended up getting Sophie a new backpack this year. Two reasons: (1) Last year’s backpack was too small for a regular size piece of paper—and her preschool teachers suggested that students have bigger backpacks at this year’s orientation. (2) Sophie’s obsessed with princesses. Disney princesses, specifically.

So I asked Andy’s talented Aunt Susan to make her a new one.

Sophie loves it. I do, too. It has Disney princesses on it but is still homemade. Her name is embroidered on it. It has adjustable straps and a pocket inside. It fits regular size papers perfectly.

Susan sells her work on Etsy here, and she’s very much open to custom work, such as this backpack.

Thanks, Aunt Susan.

“The best thing about doing needlepoint for very small children is that they are so uncritical. The don’t say things like, ‘I see you’ve missed some stitches over here on the leg, was that intentional?’ or ‘Was this creature blinded in a fight?’ They will clasp it in their little arms and love it besottedly, inseparably as the thing becomes more and more rancid.” —Carole Berman and Jennifer Lazarus

Sophie’s 1st Day of Preschool (2nd Year)

“Holidays are enticing only for the first week or so. After that, it is no longer such a novelty to rise late and have little to do.” —Margaret Laurence

The New York Times Motherlode Guest Post: The Perfect Backpack

My HipstaPrint 0 (1) 2

The New York Times Motherlode blog is one of my favorites. Monday I read three essays on Motherlode (Daughter, Rising by Pam Allyn; Pay It Forward by Melissa T. Shultz and Silence is Golden by Karin Kasdin) about sending your child off to college. These essays made me think about Sophie, who will be starting preschool in September. And so I wrote an essay that night, and was thrilled when the editor of Motherlode asked to post it as a bookend to the essays listed above. You can read my essay here.

“Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere.” —Chinese proverb