Saturday, June 30, 2012

Next stop: grade 4!

This charming girl successfully complete grade 3.  This year she has gained confidence, friends, and a few teeth.  She continues to be kind-hearted, diligent and great all round student.

And she is headed for grade 4. (Let us not, forget, what that means.) 

To me, it means letter grades, and playing recorder, and math tests, socials assignments and group projects.  But, Sydney is looking forward to SPELLING WORDS IN LISTS.  For the past two years her spelling work has been in weekly poems or paragraphs. She yearns to have a tidy little list written inside her planner.

I have one question: Grade 4, are you ready for Sydney?

From then. To now.

Jackson, in kindergarten:
 Jackson, ready for middle school: 
About seven years ago, Husband and I decided we should move.  We were living in a community we considered a pit stop in life. A fine-for-now place, but not our forever home.  We moved into the house when Jackson was a baby. We had initially thought we might move when Jackson was in grade 2 or 3.

Then we got to know the J Boy and learned transitions were not easy and the thought of moving him in the middle of elementary school was  like voluntarily walking through a minefield.  I had just gone back to work so trading up in houses (and neighbourhoods) was do-able.
Last family photo at our old house

The goal was to move in early 2006 so that come kindergarten registration time (February) we had an address in a district and we could register Jackson for school. We needn't have actually moved by then, only had a signed offer on a house. 

Fresh into the new year, having sacrificed our holiday season to purge and declutter, we  put our house on the relatively hot real estate market.  We had a lot of interest and multiple offers within days.  That was the hard part.  We accepted an offer and with much glee started the fun part, finding a new home.

Not so easy.  I won't bore you with our two month roller coaster ride of disappointing houses, failed bids, accepted bids that fell through and prices spiralling out of reach.  But in the end it was March 13th when we finally found our home in our preferred school catchment area. Signed. Sealed. Finally.

The next morning I called the school, hoping the kindergaren classes had not filled up.  It was spring break and the school was closed.  A week later, I dropped Jackson off at preschool, and drove with Sydney to the new school. I specifically remember walking down the steps and looking at the school. It looked so foreign and I remember thinking how familiar this would be in time.  Fortunately, they had room for Jackson in the "Class of 2012".

The early years at elementary school were a mix of unhappy after school interactions,  negotiating bad play dates and just trying not to lose my freakin' mind. But Jackson did grow. 

As he started grade 1, I could not imagine how he would negotiate lunchtime.  He didn't really have friends he played with. But in no time, there was a  keen group that would run around solving mysteries on the school ground.  For a few years, I wasn't sure he would ever sort out the difference between a 6 and a 9 or have legible printing.  But he passed those milestones.

Nothing made Jackson as happy as when, in his grade 2 year, Sydney joined him at the school. Except maybe the next year, when Sydney was around for lunch and recess and they arranged meeting places.

In the past few years, Jackson has learned some things about responsibility, though he is still a work in progress in that regard.  But I am proud of the citizen of the world he is becoming.  He is a creative, hard-working, empathetic kid who has a keen interest in learning, loves to write stories and try anything new.

Proud of you, J Boy!
Can't wait for the next chapter.

Friday, June 29, 2012


I will always think of this year as the year of the fedora.   The kids wanted to go one thing on their last day of school: pitch their hats into the air.  They both did it in their respective classrooms (Sydney's got caught in her teachers hair, which is totally the teacher's fault for being so tall).

Here they are trying it together:
 I can honestly say that I am looking forward to spending time with these two citizens of the world.  Some summers I have more anxiety than anticipation over how the summer will go.  I still have PTSD from a Canada Day family outing where one of the progeny, fresh out of kindergarten, had me investigating full time military school for the under 6 age group.
But this year, can't wait.  

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Leaving Ceremony

Big Day for the J Boy.  Leaving elementary school.
Before pics:
During pics:
 After pics: 
Congratulations, Jackson!

(Funnily enough, I spend 6 months looking in vain for non-running, not-too-dressy black shoes for him, and shockingly no one mentioned his running shoes.)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

In Defence of Celebrations.

It has become very popular to scorn the frequent celebrations visited upon children.  It's as contemptible as impersonal Christmas letters, which I have been known to defend

By celebrating everything, the argument goes, nothing and no one is special. 

While I cannot deny that in some quarters it may have gone too far (have you ever seen while channel surfing Party Mamas? Frightening.), I maintain that celebrations, especially at school, should be here to stay.

Preschool graduation, you say?  Utterly ridiculous.

Jackson went to a preschool that took preschool graduation kind of seriously. They had formal portraits with cap and gown. They rented a hall, served food and the kids crossed the floor on the stage, recited a nursery rhyme and shook hands with their teachers.  Some grandparents attended.  It was magical.

This preschool took itself very seriously when it came to preparing kids for kindergarten.  But not at the expense of good old fashioned fun and amazing kid-created craft projects.  So graduation did feel like something.

Especially for us.

Jackson started preschool when he was still 2 owing to his late November birthday.  He had only been speaking in sentences a few months.  He was shy. He was perfectly happy to go to preschool, as long as Mommy could stay (which I did, once a month as it was a parent participation preschool).

School always started with free time in the gym.  That was good for some of the kids who were excited and needed to burn some energy.  For those who didn't want to leave Mommy, it left a lot of time to contemplate. It was a little hard on us. And every one that had to watch. 
I tried staying for a few minutes to ease him into the situation, but whenever I left he would cling to my legs and cry.  The teachers had been to this rodeo and agreed I should do what I thought was best.  I could stay. Leave. Let him cry.  They knew every kid and every parent and every dynamic was unique.

I would not have left him to cry for two hours, but I realized quickly that I had only to be out of eye-shot when the tears ended.  This school had sixteen students and two teachers. One teacher was the main driver of the curriculum. The other was mostly on crowd control, wrangling the more rambunctious boys.  The amazing  crowd control teacher, a grandmother and experience educator Barb, would each morning, walk briskly into the gym take Jackson's hand (and another shy girl Morgan) giving neither a chance to hesitate or linger on good byes. She would walk around holding their hands until they felt comfortable.  Pure magic.

At Christmas Jackson asked if he could have a sleepover with Barb.

Over the next two years, the kids learned to clean up, speak and listen in circle time, write their names, take turns, line up and, on a good day, put their jackets and shoes on by themselves.
The biggest mountain to climb over two years of preschool was public speaking. Once a month, when a helping  parent was present, the child would be asked to select a nursery rhyme. The goal was to have the child say the rhyme by him or herself in front of the class.  At first Jackson would not even choose a nursery rhyme. He would point.  By the end of two years of preschool, at graduation he loudly and proudly recited Hickory Dickory Dock  to the assembled parents and grandparents.

It was a loud and proud moment for me too and one I am glad we celebrated.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Dancing Leopard

It's that time again -- year end shows.  Those of you who have been hanging around this rodeo for at least two years, may remember my posting about the end of Sydney's dance career.  It was natural causes.   She had determined that she had stage fright, so despite enjoying the dancing, performing at the year end show kyboshed the whole enterprise.

Well I am here to tell you a leapoard can change her spots.  Last September, Sydney told me she wanted to dance again. What!?!?  Did she not know that I allocate all the brain space and mental anguish available in the months of June and July for figuring out the activities for the kids in the fall?

But she persisted and she joined a hip hop class in Fridays after school.  She loved it and was looking forward to the year end performance. (Some may recall the high level diplomatic skills required even to get her to the dress rehearsal).

And earlier this month (I am a little behind...), we went to a lovely theatre to watch a charming and incredible dance show: 
The costume fairy smiled on us and Sydney's costume was something she will wear again.
And again.
And Again.
What is not to love about a white denim jacket?
Some makeup to finish off the look: 
 Some fans in the audience: 
 I was so proud that Jackson wanted to tape it for Sydney on his iTouch,
I allowed him to even though the ushers were running around enforcing the
"no video rule" like meter maids:
 Never prouder of my Girlie Goo!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Explanatory Notes

Jackson should come with Explanatory Notes these days.  (For anyone that has tried to divine the meaning of new legislation, particularly the Department of Finance, will issue Explanatory notes to describe that is actually intended in the pending legislation.  Kind of like subtitles.)

From one to all of these should be used on any given day:

Yes, I have clean clothes at home. I choose to wear this dirty shirt, because it's my favourite.


This shirt was clean when I left the house.

Yes, my parents do earn sufficient income that I don't have to wear shirts with holes in them.  But I was too lazy to find a non-holey shirt.


 I was too fast and I put it on before my Mom could find it and throw it out.

I know this shirt looks very old but this is the first time I wore it, but since I pull my knees and arms inside the shirt and also a soccer ball/ pillow / the dog, it is looking stretched out.

I realize it is June and I am wearing my winter parka. I like it. My Mom has suggested that this close to the summer solstice I might wear something a little lighter, but I like it. And I'm always cold.

Yes, I know my jeans have holes in the knees / are 4 inches off the floor, but that is totally not my Mom's fault since she made sure I had a full drawer full of suitable shorts to wear and who buys new jeans in the summer.  It's almost July and summer has yet to arrive. Totally not her fault.

Yes, I was wearing this shirt in grade 1, but it was the only one I could find, which is totally not my Mom's fault. She did the laundry and put it in my room to put away. I just choose to leave a basket of clean clothes in my room and pretend it's not there and reserve the right to complain about the lack of clean shirts.

Father's Day

Father's Day 2012.  We were down a man, or a Girlie Goo to be specific. Sydney was on the tail end of a virus.  But did not stop Mommy from snatching some photos:
The usual celebratory fare:
Always popular: 
 Sydney gets team player award for coming to table to sip her water:
Gift opening:
The gifts keep on coming ...
 Resemble much? 
Tissue bonanza for Finny.
Group shots:

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Jesus, Oma and Sir Isaac Newton

It all started over  guilt. 

When I  buy the kids clothes, I always end up buying more for Sydney.   Especially shoes.  Jackson needs runners, sandals and boots.  Frankly, he could really use about three pairs of runners just to cut down the number "WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES??" "I DON'T KNOW" conversations.   But I'll leave that for another time.

I always buy Sydney a pair of white flats or sandals in the summer and black ones in the winter.  And sometimes (years that are odd or even) I'll buy her an extra or three pair that are pink, or sparkly or a really good deal.

So we have some serious shoe inequity. (I forbid anyone to count the number of shoes I have versus Husband).

So Jackson has from time to time asked for shoes with wheels in them, or Heely's.

Because of the shoe guilt, I told Jackson I would get him a pair at some undefined time in the future.

Today we had a little SNAFU regarding a play date. I arranged one with a friend Jackson hadn't seen since Christmas.  I thought it was today, but had misread the email.  After Jackson had counted down the hours and then minutes and our play date was overdue by 20 minutes, I re-read the email and discovered that the play date is tomorrow. 

To put it mildly, a 24 hour delay was a bitter pill to swallow for a certain shoe-deprived boy.  So in an effort to get Jackson to stop banging his head against his bed frame (can't tell you how much I wish I was exaggerating), I told Jackson we would drive to a municipality 45 minutes away, as I had a line on some good Heely's.

Mission accomplished.

We are lucky in that we have a deck out front of our house. It's smooth, close to level and, importantly has a handrail. 

After dinner, Jackson went out to practice. We briefly tried working with just one wheel in and the other like a running shoe (the wheels are removable) but decided it was better for learning balance if he had two.

Things were under control. Husband went to walk the dog.  The J Boy had been out there a good 30 minutes and he came in and flopped on the couch.  I assumed he was tired.

"One wheel is gone. But don't worry, I'll but a new one."

Are you freaking kidding me???!!!!

He had decided for reasons I have not yet ascertained, to remove one wheel. He dropped it. The deck is pitched slightly away from the house for water drainage, or you know if you have a 2 inch diameter wheel that you really want to go spend a Saturday night looking for.

Jackson told me only that Sydney had run down the street after it. Oh, did I mention we live on a significant hill?

So according to my not-very-reliable eye witnesses, the wheel rolled off the deck, down the driveway and headed down the hill. They last saw it by the mailbox, which is 3 houses away.  It's another 6 houses to the bottom of the street.  But the street curves around and the lowest point is another 5 or 6 houses away.  Then there was a path and a set of stairs that went still lower.

We are talking needle / haystack territory.

I  headed outside, thinking at the very least, I might find my 8 year old daughter, and hopefully that little wheel.  Which fortunately was bright yellow.  
I did not think the odds of it going all the way to the bottom of the hill and around the corner were great, but we headed down and checked under cars, in flower beds, in sewer grates, under garbage cans.

We had a lot of ground to cover.  So I did what I always do when I lose stuff.

I prayed. 

I could write a book on the crazy stuff I have lost and found after praying. I am not really sure if this says more about the omnipotence of God, my ability to lose things or how much I hate losing stuff.

But it's another thing I had in common with my Mom. We both prayed when we lost stuff. 

And for good measure, I talked to my Mom.  "Mom, help us find it." I took a breath.

Jackson, who you will remember was beating his head against a board over a delayed play date, was more concerned whether he would get his promised ice cream sundae for dessert.  He had already given up.

"I am 100% sure we'll find it." I said.  Truthfully, I was only at about 90%.

"I'm looking until dark", I told the kids.

Eventually, Husband and Finnegan walked by and joined the search. 

I figured we needed a little science on our side, so we took a page from the book of Sir Isaac Newton. Force. Motion. Mass. (with props to Mr. Golightly, my high school physics teacher).

I sent Jackson back up to our house for a tennis ball, he let it roll and I was sure it would roll right to our missing wheel.

It went under a van.  A few more drops and we got it to go down the hill and around the corner, but the wheel was no where to be seen.

Husband went up to the deck and tried replicating the same conditions.(Though I was not quite ready to let him drop the other Heely wheel.) He rolled the tennis ball and it rolled down the hill a little then crossed the street and into a flower bed.

Jackson and I searched the flower bed.  No wheel.

Then I said, "well the wheel is heavier..."

Jackson finished "so it should have gone further."
The next house had a nicely manicured garden out front. I had been drawn to it in searching, thinking this must be the place. But I had looked off the sidewalk, not off the driveway.

I only had to look for ten more seconds.

I had only one thing to screech through the neighbourhood:

"YOU BETTER THANK YOUR OMA".  And Jesus, and Sir Isaac.