Wednesday, August 27, 2008

First Day

Ah preschool, how do we love thee?

Harper took the final link off of her chain last night, looked up with a twinkle in her eye and said, "Tomorrow is school!" And, fortunately, school did not disappoint.


Frankly I wasn't terribly surprised when things went well today. What did surprise me was Harper's ability to recall what happened during her day. I think I got more information about this one day of school than I got in the entire first month of school last time.

Harper was excited about her teachers, her friends, circle time, snack time, play dough, and the playground. She mentioned that a friend of hers cried a little during circle time because he missed his mom. I asked her if she did anything to help him feel better and she said, "Mom, I couldn't! It was circle time and you can't be loud in circle time." Oh my darling daughter, if only you took the rules so seriously at home.


We chatted a little more about school tonight as I was putting Harper to bed. Then we laid down together on her bed, her head leaning up against mine, and read some stories. Harper sighed contentedly as I read and I found myself thinking, as I so often do these days, that she is currently in a particularly delightful stage and I hope it stays this way for a long, long time.


*****

Ann (Nana) was reading a book to Harper before dinner. When she got to the poem about the snake Harper pointed to the picture and told her, "That snake swallowed his prayers!" Ann was very confused but figured Harper had some explanation because she tends to be right about things. When Ann pressed her a little Harper said that I'd read to her about the snake swallowing his prayers. Then Ann started reading (Do you see where this is going?)... about the snake swallowing his prey.

Hooray!

Samantha, from Back to Me, won the pay it forward contest. She'll be getting her puzzle package within a week and then we can look forward to the contest that she'll host! (Don't worry Sam, I'll send instructions.) You should definitely check her out, and not just because of the contest she'll host. I "met" Samantha online earlier this year when we were simultaneously having bed rest/pregnancy drama. Our sons were born within a week of one another. She's cool. Trust me.


Random vacation photo of Harper with exposed tree roots at the top of a Michigan sand dune. Because pictures make every post nicer, no?

Sweet Baby

A lot of the action in these parts has revolved around Harper lately, so I feel like Michael has been slightly ignored in this blog. Mostly that's a good thing because it means he is a rather uneventful baby. His constipation issue seems to have abated somewhat and he tested out of his first round of physical therapy (That's my flat-headed boy!). There's a wonderful organization in our county through which we have a care-coordinator to help us keep a close watch on Michael's development and she is so reassuring. I love knowing that we'll likely catch any problems quickly and be able to get appropriate services before little glitches become big trouble. He is right on the bubble, for his adjusted age, for a few developmental milestones. Fortunately we are able to get free physical therapy through the county program, in our house, if we need it. Thank you tax dollars!


Michael is such a sweet baby. Although, when he is angry or uncomfortable or hungry etc., he really lets you know about it. He goes from a whimper to all out red-in-the-face screaming in about three seconds (Soooo embarrassing in public!). Fortunately he calms down almost as quickly. He is full of smiles, which Harper likes to report if Michael is not directly in my line of vision. "Mo-om!" She'll holler, "Michael just had another smile!"

(Well goodness! How can anyone be expected to lift that huge head?!)

Michael is different from Harper in so many ways. He does not consistently nap during the day, although we are working on this, but he sleeps amazingly well at night. We're talking at least 8 or 9 hours a night for over a month. He will not keep a paci in his mouth, which is actually sort of unfortunate because he definitely wants to suck on something almost constantly, BUT he has taken to sucking on his hands. This looks so funny to me, especially because I don't recall Harper every doing that. She did chew her fingers a bit when teething, but Michael takes it to an entirely different level.


Michael continues to be in hate with his car seat. This makes it very difficult to take him anywhere. I'd say he spends between 50 and 75% of his time in it screaming. So we don't do many outings or even take walks very often because that usually just means we'll end up with Michael screaming. I'm hoping all the short trips to get Harper to and from school might help. When Harper was a baby she'd fall asleep in her seat before the car even left the driveway and then just stay asleep in it. It was awesome! Apparently Michael is a homebody.

A great thing about babies is how much they seem to love you. When I go to get Michael out of his crib his legs start kicking like crazy and his face lights up. Next to Harper I'm pretty sure I'm his favorite person and I love it. I could sit and watch him all day. I can't because we'd starve and be buried under our own filth, but if I had all day to stare at him I don't think I'd ever get tired of it. Things are just different than when Harper was a baby (Duh, Kelsey!). I think I appreciate our quiet times more because we are so much busier this time around.


If there's anyone left in the universe wondering if you can love a second child as much as you love your first, the answer is yes. Yes you can.


*****

P.S. You still have a few hours to enter the new contest - do it now!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A Fine Farewell

I suppose it is a little early to say that summer is over, but with school starting in two more days it sure feels like the end.

Today we headed to Matt's aunt and uncle's house to enjoy some family time and let Harper show off her new skills in the pool. Harper has always like the idea of swimming, but has never been a fan of getting her head wet. Most of the swimming we did last summer was nothing more than her puttering around on the pool stairs.


This summer, through the generosity of Matt's parents, Harper has been taking a weekly swimming lesson and her group lesson has been supplemented with a private lesson a couple of times a month. She has made huge strides since the beginning of the summer and her confidence and daring in the pool have increased. Even knowing this I think we were all surprised when Little Miss I Won't Get My Face Underwater decided, what the heck, she'd try going off the diving board. Do you think she liked it?



video

Michael's response to the pool was meh. He tolerated his feet in the water, but when Matt tried to put a little more of his body in, Michael completely freaked out - the screaming was instantaneous. I guess that isn't a surprise, considering he treats his bath like torture time. We'll have to reintroduce the pool next year, slowly.


It was a nice day with our family, we had a good dinner, and then it started to thunderstorm as soon as we got in the car to go home. If only every day worked out so perfectly.

Friday, August 22, 2008

You Can Always Choose to Ignore This

As we get ready for the school year to begin I've been up to my eyes in paperwork for Harper and all the information coming home from school. I've also been thinking a lot about what this time of year used to be like for me, when I was on the other side getting ready to meet students and parents and preparing multitudes of critical information. As a teacher you meet all kinds of parents. There are they type who are really on top of everything and never miss a beat and then there are the type whose children tell you they recycle the classroom newsletter without even skimming it; and, of course, everything in between. Let's just say that I used to spend a fair amount of time reflecting on things I hoped to do, as well as those I hoped NOT to do, when I became a parent and was interacting with school professionals. I have actual notes about some of them!

Despite my best efforts, I know I'll eventually do something to annoy a teacher or make her day more difficult. Sometimes personalities just don't mesh, despite everyone's attempts to get along. For my part, I'm just going to try to be thoughtful about my interactions and hope for the best.

Here are some random things I am doing to make things easier on myself, easier on Harper's teacher (maybe), and simply try to stay organized:

1) I make photo copies of all the completed forms I send to school, especially anything that requires my signature. This is helpful for several reasons. If the forms happen to get lost filling them in again is no big deal, all the information is already right there. Many items will remain the same for when I have to fill them in again next year and I won't have to scramble around to find the information. I can remind myself, at a glance, about things I may have signed/given permission for if I question something that happens at school. This can save an embarrassing phone call or two.

2) Harper's teachers this year had a great classroom wish list prepared for us. (I would have asked for some ideas if they hadn't.) These list the kinds of things teachers don't/can't put on school supply lists, but might end up buying out of their own money if they run short. Our list is wonderfully inclusive and contains items such a stickers, dried pasta, BINGO markers, books on tape, sponges, and cupcake papers. I transfered the list onto the computer and formatted it so it would fit on a 4 X 6 card that I can carry in my purse. Then I can pull it out when I'm in the grocery store/drug store/Target and refer to it when running errands. Not that I'm going to buy supplemental classroom items every time I'm out, but you never know when you might find a really great price on something and then it's easy to check and see if that is an item on the list. You might think you'll just remember, but I had to refer to the list of nearly thirty items just now to come up with a few examples!

3) There is also a "Trash-to-Treasure" list for the preschool, full of items you might throw away or recycle that they can use in the classroom and can't necessarily just run out and buy. Things on our list include toilet paper rolls, old cell phones, empty pudding boxes, baby food jars, the fronts of greeting cards, etc. I taped this list on the inside of one of our kitchen cabinets and I'll try to refer to it before throwing out/recycling anything until I become more familiar with what's on there.


4) Have some kind of in/out system for all the paperwork that comes home from school. This is easy to do! All you really need is a 20 cent folder that you can stash somewhere in the kitchen (or wherever the "hub" is in your house). Open the folder, mark one side "keep" and the other side "return". When all those papers come home from school you can make piles for recycling (After you've read them and recorded any important information of course!), keeping, and returning. Weekly newsletters and school notices about events or schedule changes are things I would stick in the "keep" side. Permission slip forms, book orders, and picture day forms are things I would stick in the "return" side. Try to get in the habit of checking the return side in the morning (or evening, depending on when you get ready for the day ahead) and getting things back into your children's backpacks. Older children can check the folder for themselves to see if anything needs to go back. Or maybe it would work for you to clip "return" items to the front of your refrigerator? The point is, make sure there is a place where those things always go, then you won't lose them and you're less likely to forget about them. (When the "keep" side gets too full, I look through it to see if I still need to keep those items and if I think I might want to have them to revisit, I move them to a file folder.)

Maybe many of you are now banging your head against your keyboards because this is a pretty boring post and you are thinking this stuff isn't rocket science. Sorry! I'll try to lay off the advice giving for at least the next few posts.


Swimming Pool Harper says, "Good job getting organized!"

Thursday, August 21, 2008

By Way of Introduction

Tonight is Harper's open house at school. The anticipation level here is reaching epic proportions today. Earlier this week I had her draw a self-portrait and write her name so she had something to give her teacher at the open house. While sitting at lunch this afternoon I had Harper dictate a letter to go with the picture. Trust me when I say there was very minimal prompting involved. I mostly asked her what she wanted to tell her teacher, what she wanted to learn, and what her teacher should know about her. Here is the result:

Dear Teacher,

My name is Harper. I have some things to tell you today. Please will you teach me how to draw triangles, octagons, squares, and circles? I love your name. I wanted to learn to count by tens and fives. I wish you will teach me how to make stars.

I am a big sister and I have a baby brother to show you. I use a grown-up cup. I have a dog that's a little crazy and he barks. I had chicken quesadillas for lunch today. I am good at hopping on one foot and balancing. I love Junie B. books and I bet you will like them too. I also like Apple Tree Farm Stories and music. I'm allergic to peanuts. I hope you like me. I'm allergic to peas too. I'm excited for school.

Love,
Harper

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

8-08-08, A Little Late

Astarte, at The Muddled Sage, tagged me for this meme. You know I always skip the tagging other people portion, but leave a link if you decide to do it as well.


8 TV Shows I Love to Watch:

Lost
Grey's Anatomy
Gilmore Girls
The Amazing Race
Survivor
Jeopardy
House Hunters
Jon and Kate Plus Eight


8 Restaurants I Love:

Culvers
Jay's
Ruby Tuesdays
Carvers
Red Lobster
Bagel Cafe
Bravo
The Venice Club (where we had our wedding reception)


8 Things that Happened Today:

I met with Harper's new teacher and LOVED her.
Harper went to swimming.
Harper went to gymnastics.
I fell asleep nursing Michael.
I picked up school forms from the pediatrician's office.
I folded laundry.
I took a shower (sigh, I wish this happened every day).
My Google reader wasn't (still isn't!) working.


8 Things I'm Looking Forward To:

The mini reunion with my best college friends
My mom's next visit
A good school year for Harper
Football season
Our weekend getaway to Detroit (to see a football game)
My birthday (What? November isn't that far away.)
Harper's birthday
Dar Williams' new CD and concert in September


8 Things I Love About Summer:

It stays light so late
Cricket songs
The butterfly house
Summer reading club
The end of basketball season and having Matt all to ourselves
Pictures of the kids at parks and pools (and beaches)
Grilling
Non-severe thunderstorms


8 Olympic Events I Want to See:

gymnastics
swimming
diving
marathon
indoor volleyball
beach volleyball
tennis
rowing


8 Things on my Wish List:

A minivan with a DVD player for long trips
A remodeled (or at least spruced-up) master bath
A cure for food allergies
A winning lottery ticket
10 consecutive hours of sleep
The perfect job that comes along at the right time
A winning season for the Green Bay Packers
Time to answer the email I've been neglecting


*****
Don't forget to enter the new contest!

Pay It Forward: Puzzle Edition

Ooh, August is almost over and I owe the blogosphere another pay it forward contest!

Here is the beautiful crayon roll I received from Shannon:



Harper hasn't seen it yet and I'm debating whether to squirrel it away and save it for her birthday in November.

I won the pay it forward contest Shannon hosted in July and now it's my turn to host another contest.

Here are the rules:

1) You enter by leaving a comment on this post. (If you are shy about commenting you can always email me!) All entries must be in by noon, Eastern Time, on Wednesday, August 27th. (That's the first day of school!)

2) I'll use a random number generator to pick a winner.

3) The winner will host her own pay it forward contest and share the love! (You can still enter if you don't have a blog, I'm happy to host your contest here.)

So what's the prize?

This time around the winner will receive a box full of puzzle books, mostly for grown-ups. You know, word searches, crossword puzzles, Sudoku, things of that nature. A workout for your brain, mailed right to your front door!

Now that summer is ending, I'll keep a Sudoku book in the car to use when I'm waiting for school to release Harper. Not sure what to say in the comments? Just tell me what your favorite kind of puzzle is! Go!

School Days

The First Day of School, January 2008



The Last Day of School, June 2008

Later today I will head to school to meet Harper's new teacher and lay out the plan for dealing with Harper's severe food allergies this school year. It bothers me somewhat that teachers will nearly always know about Harper's allergy before they know anything else about her, but it has to be that way. It doesn't work for them to enjoy her for a few weeks and then become educated about how to keep her safe. I've exchanged a couple of emails with the woman who will teach her this year and I'm heading into the meeting with a really good feeling about things.

Harper goes to preschool in our local city school district. There is a preschool program that puts students with special needs into classrooms with typically developing students. There are four preschool sites (at elementary schools) in our district. Last school year Harper attended a site that was a little further from our house (fifteen minutes as opposed to five) because that site had an opening mid-year. This year she will attend a school that is less than two miles away. As an added bonus, Auntie M works there!

Harper started preschool last January. She was too young to begin in the fall and had to wait until after her November birthday. There were plenty of people who thought I was a little insane to rush her into preschool the moment she turned three. Especially this preschool, which is four mornings or afternoons a week. I braced myself for the adjustment period, and it was a little teary that first morning, but Harper was in love with school by the end of her first week. Even though it was difficult to leave her there that first day, I knew in my heart that Harper was ready for school. And I was right. Every single day, when Harper was picked up, and someone asked, "How was school?" she answered, "Great!"

Harper got to play with clay and read books and paint and make friends. She sang and danced and played tag. She came home tired and happy. And for a reason none of us could have seen coming, sending Harper to school was one of the best decisions we ever made. About three weeks after Harper's first day of school I went to the hospital and ended up on bed rest for a month. Then there was the month of Michael in the NICU. And then a brand new baby with some special needs at our house. While we had lots of loving family and friends who stepped in to help during that difficult time, but the only truly consistent thing, for several months, was school. Once someone had dropped her off, her school routine was the same from one day to the next. I believe that consistency helped Harper through all the turmoil we experienced at home.

We've had a pretty good summer, and I know that Harper is happy at home. I also know that she is a very social girl and, after saying goodbye to her friends, that she cried on that last day of school.

You should see Harper as she takes a link of her paper chain each night. She counts the remaining links and joyfully announces, "Only _ days before school starts!"

Dare I hope she always loves it this much?

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Anticipation

Preschool resumes in just under two weeks and though teachers everywhere are groaning and dreading going back to the classroom (Well you know some of them are!), the people in this house are practically giddy with excitement.

As I am not a fan of answering incessant repetative questions I decided it was time for a visual representation for Harper so she would know exactly how many days until school started. Or at least something I can refer her to so she can count for herself. An old-school paper chain seemed like a good answer.

Harper cut the strips after I drew heavy black lines on some construction paper. Then she helped me decide on a color pattern and handed me the strips which I wrote on and then stapled (or, as Harper said, "stampled") together. We now have a lovely count down and as a bonus we worked on cutting, patterns, and counting.



Posting this reminds me that I never wrote the post I intended about how much Harper loved school last year - oops. I guess it's probably not too late as long as I do it before school starts again.

So tell me, are people in your house getting ready to go back to school? And how do they/you feel about it?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

A Tough Day at the Office*

Michael was cranky today, generally difficult to please which happens from time to time. So already I was not particularly looking forward to taking him to Harper's dentist appointment this afternoon. Most of the time I don't take both of them to things like that - Matt or his parents or Auntie M will stay with one of the kids. It isn't that I can't handle both of them, but is sure is easier if I don't have to. I think divide and conquer is a great strategy for dealing with young children.

Anyway Michael fell asleep in the car on the way to the dentist and then woke up as soon as they called Harper back for her cleaning, of course. He started fussing and then screamed the entire time. No position, no paci, no amount of walking would calm him. I felt compelled to repeatedly apologize to the other people in our (very, very tiny) dentist's office. Nothing to perk up your afternoon like a half hour of screaming baby! At one point I said to the hygienist, "At least only one of them is crying!" That comment may have been my undoing.

Harper was a complete angel during her exam. She was relaxed and chatty with the hygienist, which was actually rather hilarious. When the light was turned on over the chair Harper said, "That's too bright!" The hygienist said it had to be that way so they could see Harper's teeth. Then Harper leaned back into the chair and said, "It's fine now, it wasn't fine for a minute, but now it's okay."

She was perfectly still as her teeth were counted, polished, and flossed. She even dealt calmly with a fluoride treatment (which they didn't do the first time she visited the dentist). The dentist checked her, she picked a toy out of the treasure box, and we were on our way. And not a moment too soon, considering the fact that Michael had been crying all the while.

All was well as we started to drive until I looked back and Harper, who had been happily playing with a toy dinosaur moments before, started vomiting all over herself. One second she was fine and the next she was covered in stomach contents. In case you're having trouble keeping track, I now have two crying children in the car, one of whom just tossed her cookies all over the place.
My first thought was that she was having an allergic reaction to something from the dentist and I was in a near panic looking in my rear view mirror and checking for other signs. Fortunately she wasn't turning any unfortunate colors, wasn't looking/acting lightheaded or faint, didn't have hives creeping over her body, wasn't having trouble breathing. I asked her if she felt badly and she said no. I asked her if her stomach hurt and she said no. I asked her if she had choked on something and she said yes. Then I asked her what she choked on. . . "My throw-up!" she said.

My knee-jerk reaction was to call the doctor's office, especially since I had the number memorized. The nurse I talked to wasn't very nice or helpful, saying I'd have to call the dentist because she didn't know what they'd given Harper. (Fair enough, but she might have been a little kinder about it.) I knew Michael was starving and I doubted my ability to feed him and supervise a bath and the necessary laundry detail at the same time so I frantically dialed Matt's parents and asked if one of them could come lend a hand for a bit. The actual phone conversation went something like this:

Unsuspecting Father-in-Law: Hello?

Me: Mike?! Can one of you come over?! Michael is starving! Harper just threw up all over herself in the car! She needs a bath! Michael needs to eat! I can't do both! Ah! Help!

Calm Father-in-Law: Sure, one of us will be there shortly.

Thank goodness!

The next call I made was to the dentist's office. I told the receptionist what happened and she nonchalantly said, (And this is the part you should all pay attention to!) "Oh, she must have accidentally swallowed some of the fluoride, that will make them throw up." Gee, you think a three-year-old might swallow some foam from a tray filled with goop that is place in her mouth? Do you think, when you put the little spit-sucker in and tell her to suck on it like a straw, that some of the fluoride would make its way into her stomach? A little heads-up would have been nice!

So Mike arrived, Harper was bathed, laundry was started, Michael was fed, and the car seat was de-pukified. (Why oh why do car seats have so many crannies and crevices for undesirable substances to ooze into? Why?!)

As I type, Harper seems free from any lingering effects of the vomiting incident and both children are soundly asleep. I'm scheduled for an hour-long car seat reassembly challenge, but at least there are the Olympics to keep me company. Go USA!

*I was sharing this story with my friend Cindy and she said, "Sounds like you had a tough day at the office." To which I replied, "That's what I'm going to name my post when I blog about this later."

While I Wasn't Looking

Michael turned five months old. I get a little short of breath thinking that he'll be halfway to his first birthday in less than a month. Not so fast please!





The last picture is from the four month mark. He does look older, doesn't he?

Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Dream Fulfilled

Before we even left for vacation, Harper was asking if we could go back. She really wanted to play with a beach ball, on the beach, but we didn't have one. She thought maybe we'd get her a beach ball for her birthday and then we could go back to Michigan to use it. I love the fact that she thought she had to wait until her birthday to get a beach ball, that she doesn't assume we'll run out and buy something just because she wants it.

Of course I spent the whopping $1.09 at Target and purchased a beach ball to surprise her with once we were in Michigan.





The very best part of our time in Michigan was seeing Harper so happy. Lake Michigan + beach ball = three-year-old heaven.

Home

We're back.

Must unpack.

Must sleep.

Had fun.

More later.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Six Things (With Bonus Random Photos)

So Pam tagged me for a six random things meme, but I'm going to make a little adjustment for my six. We are getting ready to head up to Michigan for a week-long family vacation with Matt's parents, sister, sister's significant other, and uncle. When Harper was little I ran full-speed into the harsh reality that vacation with small children is not so much vacation as it is all the stuff you have to do at home, but with none of the convenience of being in your home. Between anxiety over how the week will go and the sheer enormity of the task of packing for all possible contingencies, I was thinking about writing six things I'm worried about - vacation edition. That, however, seemed a little bleak. Instead I'm going to write six things I'm looking forward to about vacation, and maybe they'll come true!

1. The fun of playing games with many people

2. Lots of attention for the children that won't all come from me


3. Swimming


4. Time together as a family with no work, no basketball, no appointments, etc.


5. A chance to read a book or two (due to the presence of other adults to help with the kiddos, and limited or no computer access)


6. Enjoying beautiful scenery and beautiful weather


As a bonus, when we return from vacation, we'll have the Olympics (!) to help ease the post-vacation melancholy.

*****

Random anecdote: We taped part of the U.S. Olympic trials so Harper could watch the gymnasts. She was so impressed with one of the beam routines that she shouted, "Hey! Great job lady!" at the television.

*****

Random anecdote the second: Harper has an outfit she has refused to wear all summer because she's been, "Saving it for vacation."

*****

This is probably the last post until we get back from our trip, next Saturday. Wish us luck with the car ride (6 or 7 hours!). What fun things will you do while we're gone?

(Feel like doing your own six things? Leave a link in the comments so we know where to find them.)