The changing of the seasons

I always get nostalgic around fall. If you search my archives, you’ll see many fall related posts. (Only about half of which reference Tolkien and how I wish I’d been born on the 22nd instead of the 23rd. I digress.) And these last few fall days have been glorious ones indeed. We went to King Richard’s Faire. The first of the drought-strained leaves are beginning to fall. After a squishy, humid summer the air is beginning to have a crisper bite to it.

But that’s not the season to which I refer.

Was he ever so little?
Was he ever so little?

For the last, um, seven or so years of my life, 8 am and 6 pm have found me at the old box factory between Gould and Pleasant Streets – the location of the Stoneham YMCA Child Care center. Daycare, then preschool, then summer camp, followed by afterschool. This awesome center has been a huge part of my life for years and years. They’ve always taken great care of my kids, and have loved them, even when they were perhaps not incredibly lovable. (See also: Thane at 4.) They took my kids to swimming lesson. They figured out a way to work in ski lessons (which was amazing). They got the kids outside every nice day, running off excess energy. I’ve always known my kids were safe and well taken care of.

But Grey is on the verge of aging out. He certainly doesn’t need the super high levels of supervision and rigor that the Y provides. And suddenly this year, the “pack” of kids has shifted from the Y to the very nice but much less hands-on other alternative in town. The kids really want to go where their friends go. And the fact that the other after school program is much less expensive is also nice.* So…. I finally worked out all the logistics to switch the kids. (Which, just putting out there, was not a simple thing to figure out.)

Grey is in middle school this year. He’s signed up for some afterschool clubs (Ultimate Frisbee & Drama – two clubs he’s excellently well suited for). He is beginning to own his own schedule after school. He walks to the afterschool, and walks home from the afterschool if he chooses to. This seems both natural and right, and absolutely astonishing.

It feels like there should be a ceremony. You should have to bake a cake for all the people who watched your children for so long. You should have to write a letter saying how much it’s meant to you. You should have another graduation, or something. It doesn’t quite seem right that one day they got on the bus like they have practically their whole life… and the next day they don’t. But there it is. I have expressed my extreme gratitude to the Y for their awesomeness. But it doesn’t seem quite enough.

I’ll miss the Y a ton. But I’m proud of the fine young men my sons are turning into!

*Being ambiguous for security reasons. If you want to know more about it, feel free to send me a message.

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!

Two notes from billpaying time

First – I got a notification from the Y today for the new preschool price list. I stared at it for quite some time. Then I threw it in the trash. I will never pay for preschool again. I am paying my last right now. It is all summer camp and afterschool from here until it’s time for college tuition.

Image

Second – we put a new floor into our kitchen! Very exciting. The former floor was considerably older than me. It was white. It showed everything. Being so old, it also could not actually ever be clean. We put in Pergo floors. I have some more structural fixes to the house (after Adventures in Roofing last year it will be Fixing Rotting Windows II this year) so I didn’t have a huge budget. When I first saw the floor I was admittedly skeptical, but it’s growing on me. Which – once installed – you really had better like it no matter what.

I like it.

Before:

 

What the floor looked like when clean

The big picture view of the white floor

After:

Definitely different. It took some adjusting.

With the furniture restored

Preschool Graduation

I remember this time last year, when Grey’s then-relatively-new preschool was holding its preschool graduation. I saw the note and thought. Ppfft. Preschool graduation. Call me when we get to a real milestone.

Ah, hubris.

The young graduate, a member of the class of 2011
The young graduate, a member of the class of 2011

I was, shall we say, rather less sanguine when the note arrived in my son’s papers this spring. He was graduating, a proud member of the (I kid you not) Class of 2011. For weeks heading into the event, we began hearing about the big surprise waiting for us. Grey starting singing a new song I hadn’t heard before with a chorus guaranteed to make moms cry. “Seasons come and seasons go. To you it’s fast but to me it’s slow. You’ve helped me learn and you’ve helped me to grow, but now I’m moving on.”

Keynote speech
Keynote speech

Apparently, they practiced their graduation ceremony rigorously, several times over several days leading up to the parental version. Finally, the big day came. The weather was iffy, so we were inside. The room was packed with proud parents – familiar after a year of shared pickups and dropoffs. After a wait, Music Jill began playing ‘Tis a Gift to Be Simple (I was personally extremely grateful it wasn’t Pomp and Circumstance, which I personally loathe after, uh, 7 years in the band that had to play it). The four and five year olds began filing in.

The graduating class making their parents sniffly
The graduating class making their parents sniffly

It was a quick ceremony. The center director said a few words. Grey was nominated to read a selection from “Oh the Places You’ll Go” which he did very well if you could actually hear what he said. They presented flowers to their teachers. Their names were called, and their diplomas presented. Then, they sang their two musical numbers. And with that, it was over. My son was a preschool graduate. He was headed to the grown-up world of summer camp, where there is no nap time, leaving behind the ladies who had taught him for over a year.

Congrats, kiddo.

We're proud of you.
We're proud of you.

See all the pictures, plus three videos: one of Grey reading the poem and two of the kids singing, here:

https://picasaweb.google.com/fairoriana/GreyPreschoolGraduation

Spooky Sprint

This was a delightfully busy weekend. I’m sure you’re all expecting the “The kids were so cute and we went trick-or-treating” post, which may yet come if I get time to write it up. (Note: I just doomed any hope that such post will ever be written.) Instead, I’d like to tell you about what I did Saturday morning.

I ran my first 5k race ever.

Yup. I did. I know. Pretty amazing. And yes, by “ran” I mean “ran the whole way” and by “5k” I mean “5 kilometers which is like well over two miles”.

This story starts with my new job in February. It turns out that there’s a gym in our building, which is something new for me. And the gym is cheap — like $25 a month, $150 of which are reimbursable annually. So I got a membership, figuring it probably wouldn’t work but I’d try it out. For several months I made it maybe once a week, often at about 2:30 pm when I’m completely brain-dead anyway. In spring, as the weather turned nicer, I decided to go run instead of doing the elliptical. About a third of the way through my planned course, I was too tired to continue and had to walk. I intermittently walked and ran the course. I felt completely wretched afterwards. A month or more elapsed before I tried it again. I think I made it half way through the 1.5 miles or so before I had to walk again. Maybe a month and a half ago, I managed to run the whole course without stopping. I still felt like dying afterwards. But then I started working out TWICE a week instead of once. Apparently this makes a huge difference.

Now, this isn’t the first time in my life I’ve run. I did track in high school. I don’t remember running ever getting easy, or less painful. I ran the mile, but I was terrible at it. I only ran the mile because no one else wanted to. I hated the training. I dislike the races. I mostly remember hurting. I also ran while we lived in Malden, with my husband. Again, I don’t ever remember having it get much easier, or make much progress. I’ve never been much of a runner. It hurts all over when I’m done. But I think the real problem was frequency. In high school I don’t know what was up, but as an adult I just never worked out often enough to build on itself.

As the days cooled down, I ran the whole course again. I added another half mile to the run. Then I started running it faster. Tuesday, a very very frustrating day, I pushed it and ran it with adrenaline and frustration powering it. I’m not sure what my time was, but I certainly went faster than I had before. I’d been toying with this whole “5k” thing for a few weeks, and I decided that maybe, just maybe, I could run the whole race.

There’s deciding you’re going to do a run, and then there’s getting up at 6:30 on a cold October morning to get ready to go run. I did it anyway. I stood in the lobby of the YMCA building, surrounded by people dressed as cupcakes and fairies and the Cat in the Hat (I was dressed as a person pretending to be a runner), wondering what I was doing there and feeling profoundly out of place. I had confessed my ambitions to few people, but I’d passed one of my coworkers in the gym as I got my shoes on Friday and he’d given me some good advice. “Don’t start strong”, he said, “I tried to keep up the first time I ran a 5k and I nearly passed out at mile 2. Just start slow and speed up as you go through.” I considered this sound advice. I firmly set my goal to be running the entire distance.

As the air horn went off, i was passed at on all sides, and had to restrain myself from attempting to keep up. I ran through the brisk morning air, leaves crunching under my feet, blue October skies peeking over autumnal lawns and gardens. I ran. I ran on Lebanon street — the route I’d traveled the night I gave birth to my eldest son (yelling backseat driving directions to my husband through contractions). I turned on Sylvan Street, and ran past the graveyard I’d wandered many a time. The people around me laughed and talked and caught up on the latest shared gossip. I waved at one of my son’s teachers at Mile 2 as I turned up the gravel road through the park to the top of the hill. I pondered race etiquette at the water stop, cups flung lewdly on the ground. On Main Street a convict and a cat, pushing a stroller, passed me. I called out to them — my neighbors — and we ran together for a while, before they (showoffs!) put on their final burst of speed to finish the race. Feeling pretty awesome myself, and knowing there wasn’t much further to go, I also put on speed and started passing people. At the last turn, my family was waiting. I called to Grey to join me, and he took off down the blocked street in front of me.

I crossed the finish line 32 minutes and change after I’d departed it.

Now, that won’t win me any plaudits. That’s over ten minutes a mile. I don’t know the winning time, but I bet it was half the time it took me. But you know what? It’s really cool when you remember and realize that the world is full of things you haven’t done yet, but you can do. I’m no gym rat. I’m just as awkward at this as you are. I didn’t have great shoes, or special clothes, or time, or a trainer. But I did it. And I felt really, really good afterwards (if a tiny bit sore today). And now I can think about what else I might want to do. Another 5k? Beat the 30 minute mark? Is a 10k within reach? (Would I want to do one?) Would Grey ever want to run a 5k with me?

I am, for sure, a novelty seeker. I love doing new things. But I rarely do them. I’m not sure why… lack of courage? Lack of energy? But doing new things feeds my spirit. It allows me to create these entirely new memories. My previous recollections of running were almost entirely of pain. These memories include exhilaration, strength and the surprise of those first two!

Plus, now I feel totally justified in eating more Halloween candy. I mean, hey. I just ran a 5k. Right?

My son the Pike

When he was born, I labelled Grey a barracuda. But Saturday morning at 9:45 am he became a Pike.

Grey, on the left, with green noodle
Grey, on the left, with green noodle

It was amazing to see the difference between swimming lessons this year and last year. Last year he was wearing a swim diaper. This year he’s potty trained. Last year I had to change all his clothes for him. This year, he gets in and out of his own clothing. Last year I held him throughout the lesson during the mom-and-baby portion. This year he bravely jumped into the pool while I sat clothed, drinking coffee and pretending to read Virgil on the benches.

I think the part that got to me most was watching his enthusiasm, energy and concentration as he listened to his teachers and followed his instructions. He was trying so hard. No one could kick more vigilantly. No one bounced up and down and the water more vibrantly. He gave the swimming lesson everything he had, fearless and without holding back. And I took the place a parent should — quietly supportive on the sidelines.

Grey has a phenomenal, amazing memory. It’s been a full year since we went to swimming lessons, right? More than a quarter of Grey’s entire life has passed since last we went to the Y. But do you believe that blessed child remembers that there is a Starbucks right next to the Y and that if he behaves himself he is entitled to a chocolate milk therein afterwards? For sure he does. How he remembers this, I do not know because I SWEAR I didn’t bring it up, but he did.