Preschooler No More

My company hosted its annual convention this past week. In addition to presenting at a session and connecting with my clients, I was also the official event photographer (which was wicked fun, by the way). On Thursday, though, I walked out of the cool, dim & artistically decorated rooms and crossed high bridges between crane-risen buildings back to the parking lot, to head home for a rite of passage. Preschool graduation.

Stoneham YMCA Preschool Class of 2014
Stoneham YMCA Preschool Class of 2014

Now, much fun has been made of the proliferation of graduations. I confess to a bit of mirth on my part at the banner strung between the sensory table and block area proudly pronouncing the “Class of 2014”. But when those small, bright faces in pint-sized blue robes came walking through the room to find their chairs, my heart swelled with the pride of the mother of a graduate. The celebration was short. There were readings by two of the emergent readers (including my sweet Thane). The classes sang the songs with Music Jill that I’ve been hearing so much of lately. They called forth the graduates and presented them with both diplomas and “superlatives”. Thane was “Most Likely to be a Scientist” – a role I was heartily glad to hear for him! (I was betting on “Most Likely to be a Pokemon Trainer”)

Thane delivers the keynote
Thane delivers the keynote

I glanced around the room at the kids I knew from playdates and birthday parties. At the parents who shared the 5:59 pickup time with me, and the ones I’d never seen before. We had been together a long time, those of us in that room. Thane has attended the Stoneham YMCA since he was just over a year old, and many of the kids had been in those infant rooms with him. Now they scatter – some to other school districts, some to other elementaries. A handful will find themselves the smallest members of South School in the Fall.

A rare picture of all four Flynns
A rare picture of all four Flynns

Thane is ready for it. He hasn’t napped in like 3 years, so giving up the enforced nap time will be great for him. He has started to read everything around him. Curious and literal-minded, he asks again and again for definitions he knows, trying to ensure he has them just right. His reading is ready. His math is ready. I think – I fear to say it – but his behavior is ready too. He has become amazing amounts more helpful and cooperative over the last year.

He’ll have two more days in the Orange Room, with the beloved Miss Laureen and Miss Jenn. And on Wednesday, when I drop him off at the Y, it will be downstairs at Summer Camp instead of upstairs. A swimsuit will replace the blanket. He’ll be ready for new adventures. And ready he is.

He's ready.
He’s ready.

For more graduation pictures and videos of the kids singing, you can check out the album!

Hex heaven and hell

So, here’s a funny story I failed to share with you at the time. As you all know, bated-breath-daily-readers, my son began Kindergarten in our public school this year. What this really means is that we entered the Realm of the PTO Fundraiser. Now, I’m delighted by the Japanese drummers and such that the PTO helps pay for, so I cheerfully forked over my dues. Then there was the big Halloween fundraiser. Every family was expected to sell 12 cash raffle tickets at $5 a piece (or $25 for six). I toyed with offering to swap purchases with our similarly be-Kindergartenered neighbors. But when I jokingly mentioned this “great opportunity” to my mother-in-law, she actually professed a desire to part with money for these tickets and demanded I offer said opportunity to my parents as well. Bemused, I did. And thus I disposed of our 12 obliged tickets, end of story.

Or not. We left the Halloween party prior to the great unveiling of winners, but not being the optimistic sort thought nothing of it. Until the day my mother-in-law arrived home to find a $500 check. She was the grand prize winner!

Now, long time readers of the blog will know that one of my mother-in-law’s favorite hobbies is home renovation. Namely: our home. It started with painting the basement floor the week we moved in. Then we had Thane’s prenatal bedroom renovation (she painted), our bedroom repainting (while I was gone one day), the kitchen repainting, the hallway repainting (she’s a genius with paint), the entry-way transformation early one post-Piemas morning, and the infamous “I’m sure the tile under the carpet is in fine shape” bathroom renovation just this September. All this she has accomplished despite living 1000 miles away and weighing 90 pounds wet. (To be fair, my parents helped demo Thane’s room and repainted the living room 3 years ago this week. But they don’t daydream about our attic the same way Laureen does.) And I’m sure I’m forgetting one or two more minor renovations she instigated or executed. So she decided what she wanted to do with her money was to “update” something in our house – generously leaving the choice of what up to me.

"Before" picture... from before we painted the living room
"Before" picture... from before we painted the living room

Watching how hard it was to use the XBox Kinect in our smallish living room as currently configured, I finally decided it was time to pull the trigger and get rid of the ancient CRT media center we had gotten for free because they didn’t want to move it when we moved into our last rented house. So Thursday was planned as a trip to IKEA.

Both boys are now old enough to go to “Smaland” – which was great. It gave us just enough time to scope out the available options, attempt to decide if glass shelves were advantageous or disadvantageous, and put together A Plan. We blessed our larger vehicle with the roof-rack as we vibrated home up I93. Then we had dinner with friends, put the kids to bed, and sat down with massive amounts of cardboard, Swedish instructions, hex wrenches and the Mythbusters. Half an hour past midnight, the pieces were all assembled, but we were too tired to put them in place. So this afternoon, we attached, wired, organized and otherwise prepared for our new configuration.

I confess I’m pleased as punch about just how nice it looks. Here it is in daylight:

Daylight demonstration
Daylight demonstration

I just took this one, so the light’s different but you can see more:

I can hardly express how much BIGGER the room seems!
I can hardly express how much BIGGER the room seems!

And as a bonus, here’s my husband hard at work:

He actually has a hex bit for his drill
He actually has a hex bit for his drill

First, first, first day of Kindergarten

My firstborn son went to his first day of his first year of school. I have been anticipating this day for, oh, about 6+ years now. There’s trepidation and excitement: will he love school like I did? Have I taught him the right amount of the right things? Did I do everything I was supposed to do in order to do this first handoff? From now on, he will have to choose to do the things he is supposed to do, and I’m just the supporting cast.

The first day of Kindergarten was a big day for me.

SOME parents don't get surly faced kids until Middle School!!!
SOME parents don't get surly faced kids until Middle School!!!

Not for him. You could almost hear the “yeah yeah” as he happily ran ahead of me to the door. He tried to convince me that I could just drop him off. That I didn’t have to come in. That he was FINE thanks mom! There was, I think, a brief rolling of eyes when I held out my hand. He spotted his teacher and whoosh! He was gone – pausing only to give me a high-five on his way out the door.
Can you spot the Grey?
Can you spot the Grey?

The other parents and I looked at each other and shrugged. I guess that was it. My neighbor gave me a hug.

All day I wondered how it was going. Was he having fun? (More fun than I was having, I’d warrant!) Was he starting off on the right foot? Was anyone making fun of him or his lunch or anything?

When I picked him up from afterschool care, I asked how the day had gone. “Awesome!” He filled us in on the details: they play music at lunch, they played a fighting game in computer class, gym was his favorite part (a candy-filled pinata seemed to influence that decision), a kid had bullied him but the situation had been quickly and favorably resolved (I am having particular trouble figuring out what really happened with this one), all his friends had a great day too.

So Kindergarten, one day in, two thumbs up.

Lincoln and Grey lining up to go upstairs
Lincoln and Grey lining up to go upstairs

And the thunder rolls

Fierce weather has cut a swath across this continent. Tonight it is touching down in my small Commonwealth – but so far distantly. Tonight, after the children were tucked in, I snuck up to our high attic to watch the lightening. It was truly a remarkable night for lightening. The sky flickered as though some distant celestial campfire threw shadows upon our darkened world – illuminating the spring-heavy trees and church steeples. The thunder was a constant rumble. The lightening I saw never touched down – it threaded across the sky like revealed veins in the encircling arms of the sky. But here, north and east of Boston, it seems not much more than a summer storm, ushering fast, cool winds.

The fifteen minutes I spent there, in a dark room watching lightening flicker ceaselessly, seems like the first quiet fifteen minutes I’ve had in about two weeks. It has been a busy stretch! When I think of all the things I’ve saved up to tell you – important things! – I feel nearly overwhelmed. And tonight I feel too poetic for bullet points. Last night I stayed up until 1:15 in the morning transcribing 18 pages of notes on the risks and mitigations of an ERP transition for a 9 hour meeting I attended. If I never see another brutally factual bullet point, it may be too soon.

Two boys and two puppies
Two boys and two puppies

So instead we will wander on together, long form.

First: my knee. When last we left our favorite joint, it was in dire discomfort. I checked that wall I so blithely jumped off again yesterday, and I must confess that it might be closer to five feet than the four I defended myself with. A week after the initial injury I met with an orthopedic surgeon, who got me to PT not 5 minutes later. Really. Remarkable. I did a few PT sessions, and now I’m quite certain that it was a bad sprain. Today, I managed to do several flights of stairs leading with BOTH legs. I even ran for a bit before I realized that was probably a bad idea. (But it was pouring!) I kneeled to pick up toys. I am pretty sure in two weeks there will be barely a twinge left. I’m going to try to actually get ahead of my pre-injured state with the PT sessions I have remaining though. This knee has never been quite as strong and capable as we might desire. But at this point, it is only hampering the most enthusiastic of my activities. (No 5K for me this weekend, not that I was planning on one!)

Second: it’s a darn good thing I was 90% mobile, as we went camping this weekend. At the time, I would’ve told you it was buggy, stressful and I was unsure of whether this was all worth it. It has only taken a few days to fade into lovely memories. How wonderful and odd our minds are to make it possible for us to enjoy things in retrospect that we did not enjoy at the time, or to forget pain and remember pleasure. One of those remembered pleasures was swimming. Our preferred campground, White Lake State Park boasts a lovely sandy beach offering access to a lovely mountain lake which is surprisingly warm, even in May. We went swimming three times, which is a pretty good ratio for so early in the season. Grey displayed significantly more water skill. Thane showed significantly more water-wariness (after recreationally attempting to drown himself constantly last year). I got to take some lovely swims out towards the middle of the lake, past the sight of inflatable alligators where all I could see were mountains, trees and water. Grey made a friend in the little boy at the next campsite. Thane did 1000 puzzles, just like he would’ve done at home. We also had a lovely “car walk” across the Kankamangus, down to Lake Winnepesaukee and back. I have concluded that the thing that would make camping super fun was if some of my friends came too, so we could tell tall tales around campfire. Unfortunately, my friends all seem to have either a) lake houses or access thereto or b) sense.

My boys
My boys

Third. It has come to my attention that my children are growing up too fast. I’d like to complain to the management, please! This morning was, truth be told, Kindergarten orientation. We went up to Grey’s to-be classroom and met his to-be classmates and to-be teacher. It is a lovely classroom, with books and colors and name tags. It is a place where I think he will be happy. The school is super duper. I mean, I went to FOUR elementary schools, and you could combine the enrichment features of all four of them and still end up short of this one. There’s a music room, and art room, a gym, a stage, a science room (seriously?!!?). They have onsite physical and occupational therapists. There is a school nurse and school psychologist. The library was large and friendly. There was a well equipped computer classroom. The children we saw all seemed to be engaged, having fun, learning, doing cool things. They were very friendly, welcoming the little kids to the school. It felt like a very healthy, happy place where the kids learned good things – and where there was room for them to be themselves. I am super-pleased, since this is just our local public school!

Then, when I picked Thane up, I got the word that he will be going to preschool next month. Indeed, he had apparently gone for a visit today, and his teachers had a hard time convincing him to come back to the Toddler 2 classroom. “He’s so ready” they told me. I know he is. I can’t argue. But sometimes I look at him and wonder where my little baby went. I can hardly see any traces of the infant in his determined features and flamboyant curls.

So while the accountant in me looks at these big changes and says “KACHING!” (because lo! Preschool + public Kindergarten < toddler care + preschool!), the woman in me, growing a little older, looks a little wistfully at how quickly her sons are wantonly abandoning their baby-hoods in preference for boyhood. I like babies. I was rather fond of my babies. I'm proud and pleased by the young men my sons are becoming, but I hope they don't feel the need to be too grown, too soon.

There you go – the momentous events of the last week and a half. Perhaps sometime I'll have the leisure and opportunity to post things that are NOT bare-bones updates… but we will all have to wait together for that moment.
A nearly preschooler looks for frogs

Kindergarten

For months now I’ve been completely convinced that I’m fine, FINE with Grey going to Kindergarten. In fact, I believe he probably should’ve gone LAST fall! He’s academically fine! He’s socially developmentally appropriate! He’s tall! He’s maturing fast! He covered all over his body with markers yesterday and declared he was Battle Boy while jumping on his brother’s bed! I imagined myself trundling him down to South School, instead of the YMCA, cursing the parking situation there and going on about my day. Nooooo problem.

But then I got engaged in all the work of actually moving your child from one stage to another. I wrote a signed and dated letter to his preschool, telling them that his final day as a preschooler would be June 20th. Then he becomes a Summer Camper. I’ve gotten two letters from the school – official logo emblazoned on the top of a cheap photocopy – telling me when and where I need to report myself for training. Friday morning, I need to be at South School where they will tell me what’s what. A few weeks later, it’s Grey’s turn. (Note to school district: one week is very scant notice for telling me I need to be somewhere at 9 am. Also, the duration of the orientation would have been useful information. I get the feeling I had better get used to jumping when I’m told to jump.)

I’m glad, though, because I do wonder. Although Grey’s been going to “school” for two years now, of the “pre” variety, it’s a very forgiving environment. There’s no starting bell — you show up when you show up. You can take your kid out for a day or a week because Grandma’s in town, or you’re going on vacation, or you feel like it. How will our lives react to a whole additional set of immobile, nonnegotiable timelines? Will I still have to not pack peanuts in the lunches? (There was a like a blessed two weeks when no one in his class had a peanut allergy. Sigh.) Will he want to get the school lunches? How will he react to being the littlest kid in the school? Will he hate having to sit politely all day? Will his teacher see his reading as a problem or an opportunity? What if he hates it?

One of the hardest parts of being a parent is giving up on being everything to your child. I can’t, won’t know everything about what it is like for my son to go to Kindergarten. That will only become more true in second grade, fourth grade, seventh grade, eleventh grade. When he’s a man grown, I’ll be lucky if I read about his life in his blog posts. (Hi mom!) That is the right and good way for children to grow. But it’s hard to give up, to relinquish.

At nearly every stage of my sons’ lives (note the nearly, there. Exceptions exist), I have wished I could hold them as right where they are – perfect. I remember wishing that when Grey was 3 months old. But now, I would not have him be a 3 month old again for the world. I like him quite well as a five year old, thankyouverymuch. I can only guess, predict, that this will continue to be true as they grow up.

Then again, he was an awfully cute 3 month old
Then again, he was an awfully cute 3 month old

Follow ups

Well, my fellow New Englanders, I did my best. I figured writing about the impending snow storm would make it, in the spirit of New England storms, become a non-event. Last night, as the hour for its arrival passed with a few errant snowflakes, I hoped.

It was not to be. Now, I try really hard not to complain about snow in New England in winter. (Or 100 degrees with 90% humidity in summer.) At least, no more than the standard complaints. But really. This is unacceptable. My husband I each put over two hours in shovelling our driveway out again. We had to carry snow across the street from the first shovelsful. It would’ve been a significant snowfall if it was the first of the year — maybe a little over a foot. But coming on top of existing berms, it was brutal. And you know, I consider that in the modern life, there are very tasks jobs where my gender matters. Hardly any really. But when the snow piles are 5 feet high, it turns out upper body strength is at a premium. I simply could not get the snow high enough for most of the locations, so I had to walk a long, long way carrying heavy snow to clear it.

I did, however, sneak in 5 minutes of pictures to show just how bad it was today. I was hoping to get all artistic and try out camera settings etc, but there was just Too. Much. Snow. As it was, I made it to work at the crack of 11 this morning. The only saving grace was that everyone else has to deal with the same snow.

Also, Grey has been successfully signed up for Kindergarten. It was rather anticlimactic. The woman at the front desk seemed very surprised that I’d actually read the web site, filled out the appropriate paperwork and had the needed documents already copied. Hopefully she favorably remembers me forever from now. Or at least for the, er, 7 years she and I will be BFFs.

(Takes a look at her camera memory card.) Hey, there are some other arty pictures here too, with me trying to figure out my camera. Fun! (OK, I admit it. I’m not feeling too hot. I have the uneasy sense that this blog post doesn’t have any coherence. That’s a classic combination for a picture post!)

Perry the Platypus wears a hat.
Perry the Platypus wears a hat.
Date night. I won this round on behalf of the Allies.
This is the capability that made me really want a new camera. You can't do this with a point-and-shoot. At least not mine.
We played a game called Arimaa. My husband won. Then he spent a week reading up on strategy.
I love this chess set.
They spent hours with this "house" they built
It's so hard to take pictures of lots of snow.
It's so hard to take pictures of lots of snow.
Where would you put this snow?
Where would you put this snow?
Snow shoveling is a neighborhood activity. We were all out today, and the kids played while we shoveled.
Snow shoveling is a neighborhood activity. We were all out today, and the kids played while we shoveled.
Where we do put the snow. Those are stairs, if you can't tell.
Where we do put the snow. Those are stairs, if you can't tell.

Here are all the pictures

Milestones

There are moments when, all of a sudden, your place in life lurches forward.

Tonight, for the first time, Thane used the toilet for the purpose it was intended. Twice. Let the record show that he is 2 1/4, and bribed with lollipops. (Actually, I made it a joint endeavor and bribed both him AND Grey so that I wouldn’t deal with melty Grey when Thane got a treat and he didn’t, and so that Grey would have a motivation to help potty train his brother.)

My sweet Thane boy seems so far from a baby, sometimes.

And then, tomorrow morning? I’m going to go to South School and sign my eldest up for Kindergarten in the fall. Which, I must admit. It seems well PAST time for him to be in Kindergarten. But still! School!

Brothers in PJs
Brothers in PJs

Brothers in scarves
Brothers in scarves