Country Hills Montessori

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?”

Things I’ve Neglected to Post (But Love)

A trip to Baltimore with …

jewelry-making with Grandma and …

ukulele-playing with Paw Paw.

parents’ night at Sophie’s beloved preschool

the delivery of a new-to-us swingset (with thanks to Craigslist)

and Easter!

“Time does not change us. It just unfolds us.” —Max Frisch

How Is It Not Even Noon Yet?

This morning Andy woke up to find James staring at him, little chocolate fingerprints staining the sheets. Turns out we forgot to close the gate at the top of the stairs. Again. And instead of waking us up, James went downstairs, got into the candy basket and ate half a chocolate Easter bunny. Not only did he eat the bunny, though, he tried to hide the fact that he did. In the bathroom we found bits of chocolate stained toilet paper on the wooden stool and chocolate fingerprints covering the toilet paper roll. He did a fairly good job of cleaning himself up, honestly—except for his chocolate-covered nose.

And then.

Today is Sophie’s last day of preschool. She attends Fort Thomas’s Country Hills Montessori school and loves it. This morning she was a mix of emotions—giddy with the idea of starting kindergarten and upset knowing today was her last day at this place, with these people, who have meant so very much to her (and to all of us). But she was also excited because the boys, who will be attending CHM next year, were invited to spend the morning at her school.

All three were excited.

The boys insisted on wearing their backpacks. They skipped to the car and ran into the school, smiling.

Sophie showed them where to put their backpacks and then led them to the small sink to wash their hands. Then they spotted the gerbil. They were supposed to be sitting on the blue line, criss-cross applesauce. I let them check the gerbil out, thinking a quick peek would quiet them. It did not quiet them.

“I want to see the gerbil!”

whining, wriggling and running off the line

“I want to do the puzzles!”

whining, wriggling and running off the line

“I want water from the water fountain!”

whining, wriggling and running off the line

“I WANT A COOKIE!” (Note, it’s 9:20am.)

whining, wriggling and running off the line

I was so embarrassed.

At this point, Owen was doing better than James. So I pulled James aside (and by pulling aside I mean I had to, literally, chase him down) and explained the importance of the line, of criss-cross applesauce, of being quiet and listening to the teachers.

Once group work started I apologized to the teachers. I promised I would work with them. The teachers were so kind and assuring, promising me this was normal. I’m sure it’s normal, the first week or so. But for everyone else, it was their last week. Everyone else was sitting on the line, criss-cross applesauce—including Sophie, who kept hissing “Boys! Sit down!”

And now we’re home. And they’re fighting over oven mitts.

A confession: I’m already dreaming of fall, when, for 2-1/2 hours three days a week, I’ll have three kids in school.

That is, if they’re allowed to stay …

“Children are a great comfort in your old age—and they help you reach it faster, too.” —Lionel Kauffman

Your Fifth Birthday

Dear Sophie,

This year, your birthday celebration started with your preschool celebration. First, you sat on Mrs. Richter’s lap and shared a book you made about your life.

Then you walked around the sun, carrying a small world, five times—representing your five times around the sun. As you walked, the children sang: The earth goes round the sun, the earth goes round the sun, the earth goes round the sun tra la, the earth goes round the sun. This tradition gets me every year.

Per your request, you had some special visitors the entire day this year—Owen and James loved doing work with you, and making bunny hats.

For weeks you talked about making cutout heart cookies for your class. But at the last minute, you insisted on cake pops. Having never made cake pops, we talked you into Oreo truffles instead. You got to pass them out, along with little paper cups of apple juice, to your happy class.

You woke up on your birthday (a Saturday) as any 5-year-old would—so happy. We’ve been talking a lot about how much you’ve grown lately (and you have!) so before you even changed into your birthday dress we measured and marked your 5-year-old height on your growth chart.

We set the dining room table for your brunch—you requested scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit salad and cinnamon rolls (not homemade but rather the ones “from the can”). The tall birthday candle on the table was a gift to me from a family friend (I think) back in 1979. It lists a child’s years from 1 through 21, and certain ages have pictures next to them (12 is a bike, 18 is a graduation cap). 21, however, is a wedding ring. We readily informed you that you don’t, my darling, need to get married that young …

You, of course, had the red plate.

And you, as usual, throughly enjoyed your bacon (something that still confounds the former vegetarian in me).

I purchased these five pink polka dot balloons at The Party Source at around 10:30pm Friday night. I’m fairly certain I was the only person there buying balloons versus booze that late on a Friday night.

This year you chose an opera cream cake from The BonBonerie, the same cake Daddy and I had at our wedding.

After brunch, we lit the candles on your cake …

and you made a wish. You wouldn’t tell us your wish (as is the norm with wishes), but you also, sadly, said it would never come true. If I had to guess, I would guess your wish was to fly. You’ve been talking about how wonderful it would be to fly a lot lately, to fly like a bird—anywhere you wanted. And you’re right. It would be wonderful.

Owen and James surprised you with The Last Unicorn movie (a new obsession, which you discovered at the library—now you don’t have to return it!), and Charlotte’s Web (but we have to finish the book first!).

You received many generous presents this year, including your first American Girl doll from Nini and Pop Pop. I’ll be honest—Daddy and I were always a little wary of these dolls, after we received the first catalog in the mail seemingly one week after you were born. (The prices!) But there are so many positives. I love that you have a doll that you will play with and love, even when you’re older. I love that Marie-Grace (your doll) is based off a historical fiction character from the 1850s. I love the books that accompany her.

And I love that when you found an American Girl catalog in the mail a month before, out of all the beautiful things shown, you fell in love with the feel-better kit and wheelchair. Ever since you had your surgery, you’ve been performing daily surgeries on your dolls. So this is what you wanted most. And so this is, among other things, what Grandma and Paw Paw gave you. Marie-Grace has had a lot of broken arms and legs, but thanks to your loving care and medical expertise, she’s come through them all just fine.

After all the gifts had been opened, we asked you, Owen and James to close your eyes.

And Daddy and I gave you your first real bike! A 16″ pink and white Huffy, covered in princesses and glitter (even the pedals are heart-shaped). It is, well, something. (We were so happy you loved it.)

family pictures

Your first bike ride. It reminded me so much of my first solo bike ride on the blue and white bike I got for my 5th birthday, the one with the training wheels and a little white basket with plastic flowers on it. I felt like I was going so fast, and so far, and I distinctly remember my grandpa Mangan yelling “Go, Kara! Go!” as I pedaled and pedaled and pedaled down our sidewalk. You, my dear Sophie, are reaching the age when you will begin to remember things—really remember things. I hope for happy, soft, does-something-good-to-your-insides ones.

You chose to have an art party this year, and for it, we went to our friend Tanith’s art studio, Artscapade.

First you and a few friends painted a canvas—a forest or field for your fairy; an ocean and ship for your pirate.

Then you used polymer clay and step-by-step, made your fairies and pirates.

We had cookies and apple juice from The BonBonerie, and then you opened your gifts. Tanith put together wonderful little creativity kits for all your guests to take home.

Here’s everyone, with their lovely works of art. You had a lot of fun.

Only for about a day this past year were you 4. As the months passed you were quick to inform anyone who asked that you were “4 and 1/4,” “4 and 1/2,” “4 and 3/4” and finally, “4 and 11/12s.” You were into ages this year. You wanted to know the age of everyone, characters in books, characters on television shows, dolls, other children you met. And you pushed yourself older, no matter how hard we (quietly) tried to push back. You loved when we let you watch the Scooby Doo show that’s for children “7 and older” (you remind us daily how brave you are because of it). You begged to wear nail polish (we let you, one weekend, when you were sick). You asked when you could have your ears pierced (not yet, we said). The things we did let you try—chewing gum and drinking Sprite or root beer—you declined. We still don’t know why. Perhaps you want to grow older, but only on your own terms.

Although you still desire our attention more often than not, now you will play by yourself, in your room, for long periods of time. Your play is elaborate, with your paper dolls, stuffed animals, princess figurines, scraps of fabric, treasure box contents, ribbons and art box contents. You’re constantly talking or singing while you play and often, you have your “royal ball music” playing softly in the background. You enjoy playing with Owen and James but you also enjoy your alone time—and play dates with friends (oh the constant requests for play dates with friends!), too. You throw royal balls almost nightly. You like to paint and color your paper masks and watch My Little Pony and these (admittedly awful) Barbie movies you pick out at the library. At night, we read chapter books. Currently we’re reading Ramona and Her Father and Charlotte’s Web.

You are kind. You’re often agreeable and you are so incredibly accommodating to Owen and James. You share, mostly. You’re fiercely protective of your brothers. Just today, while I was on your bed acting as patient and you were above me, acting as dentist, you heard James cry. You had begged me for a good five minutes to come upstairs for a dentist appointment. But the moment you heard James cry, you said, “Go, Mommy! He needs you!” May you always be that loyal.

You are passionate. When you’re angry, sometimes, you lose it. It reminds me of one of our favorite bedtime stories, When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry. Your anger and frustration are so intense, so real, that your stomach hurts, you have trouble breathing, you literally say, “I can’t stop.” And although I’m sometimes at my wit’s end during one of these episodes, deep down, I’m glad for them. I’m glad you’re so passionate about life, that you care about what happens in your world so deeply and that you are comfortable enough around me to express your displeasure so honestly. (Of course, this doesn’t mean I’m no longer putting you in time out.)

I love that you still love to snuggle. I love how much you adore school. I love how conscientious of rules, procedures and following directions you are at school. I love your sense of style—the outfits you choose to wear, the earrings you buy me for my birthday, the way you wish you could, and try to, decorate every room you inhabit. I love that you still grab my hand when we walk and how much you love when Daddy and I swing you when it’s just the three of us. I love how much you love your stay-up time: 8:30pm is your bedtime now, while James and Owen go to bed at 8pm. Mostly, I love how much you love—us, your brothers, your family, your friends, your teachers, even yourself. May that love always be this strong.

Happy, happy birthday, Sophie.

I love you.

“Most of us can remember a time when a birthday—especially if it was one’s own—brightened the world as if a second sun has risen.” —Robert Staughton Lynd