I view the point of parenting to be getting your kids ready to not need you. Yes, have fun with them, and cherish the time you have with them. Just remember, at some point, they will leave and go out into the world. They need to go out into the world.
So, Brooklynn, go out into the world. Welcome to kindergarten.
We've been taking Brooklynn to daycare since she was a few months old, so it isn't as if we've never had her out of the house without us before. In fact, she will still spend part of her day at a daycare to allow all of us to avoid multiple drop-offs, pick-ups, and varied schedules. And she's fine with it.
Last night, as we reviewed her lunch list and picked out her first day outfit, she took some time to explain to Maddi that she would be going to school during the day but she'll come back in the afternoon so Mom can pick them both up. She explained it with a "Of course this will be fine" tone that showed she was the big sister, more than capable of taking care of herself.
With Brooklynn in daycare, she has been getting to be one of the big kids for a while now, some I'm used to seeing her as a rather mature and capable person. This morning, to help her get into the routine, we took her to daycare and let the shuttle take her to school. I told her that I would see her at school just to make sure she got to her classroom on the first day. At daycare, she was fine - I'll see you there if you want to come. If anything, Maddi was more worked up over the notion that Brooklynn would be leaving without her.
I got to the elementary school ten minutes before the bell rang to line up. It's been a while since I've been to K-5 age setting, and longer still since I was there on the first day. Since I didn't know exactly where Brooklynn would be dropped off, we hadn't set a firm meeting point to give her a "Wait for me here" direction. As I surveyed the mass of kids, parents, and supervisors on the playground, I regretted that.
I didn't think Brooklynn would have abandoned her belongings to play, but I swung by the slides and swings to check. I didn't see her. If nothing else, I knew I could wait by the door and at least wave to her as she went in since I told her I would be there. I was walking back to the school through the people when and opening in the crowd appeared and I spotted her.
She was standing still, clutching her backpack to her chest, looking at all the people swirling around her. Instead of the mature and worldly person we see at home, she seemed very small, timid, and afraid. She saw me as well, came over, and latched on to my leg. I crouch down to be at her level and everything came spilling out. They shuttle dropped her off and there weren't many other kids riding with her today and she didn't know where to go and she couldn't find her teacher and she didn't know where I was but she knew I should be somewhere and she just didn't know.
And so I helped her. With the assistance of a playground monitor, we found the tag where her class will line up. And we looked at the other class tags, and saw how others ones had numbers for the grade levels and hers had a K for kindergarten, and the letter of her teachers name. We put her backpack in the line and went to play for a minute. Brand new playground equipment, yes it's ok to go on it, and yes, I will be here when you're done.
The whistle blew for everyone to line up, so we went back, found her backpack, and got in line. We talked about where the shuttle from daycare dropped her off, and where it would pick her up at the end of the day. We talked about the fact tomorrow morning, she would need to do this herself and that I can't come every day with her. She said that she could handle it, and, since her teacher was starting the headcount of the kids in line, I gave her one last hug, got a tighter squeeze back, and I stepped away.
They waited for a minute while a few other classes went in first. Brooklynn motioned for me to come over to her, but I just told her she would be fine, right? She nodded, and it was her turn to file in. One last wave and she was gone. She didn't even need to look back.
I walked back to my car and headed back to work. The whole point of parenting is to get your kids ready not to need you. We're doing that. Some steps along the path are bigger than others, and I'd say that this morning was a gigantic one.
Good job, Brooklynn.
Brooklynn has been riding her bike for the past two years with training wheels. She's comfortable with them on and rides pretty quickly, but the entire time, she's been aware that the training wheels are something big kids don't have. She also hasn't learned to lean into turns and when she pedals hard up hills, she sometimes lifts the back wheel off the ground leaning entirely onto the small training wheel. Last month, we told her that maybe this summer would be the year she learned to ride a bike without them. And she immediately demanded that we take the training wheels off. She was FIVE! No balance aides required. Because she's five. Of course a birthday automatically imparts the ability to balance on two wheels.
I took them off, and since her bike seat was set too high for her to reach the ground, I held on while she climbed up. The first trip to the corner and back I held on tight and kept her upright. I imagine it felt to her much like having the training wheels on. The bike stayed stable and vertical regardless of her body position. The next trip, she informed me that I didn't have to hold on so much. So I didn't.
Two seconds later, she was yelling at me because I almost let her fall and how could I do that!? She's just a little kid.
The training wheels went back on.
We've been looking at the strider bikes for Maddi, the kind where there aren't any pedals and kids learn to balance by walking with their feet and gliding. Brooklynn wanted nothing to do with it, because that was for little kids. She has a pedal bike, don't you know. But after visiting a store with them and letting the girls ride around the small strider bikes, Brooklynn admitted that maybe it would be ok to try it.
I lowered her bike seat all the way and took off the pedals. She could just reach the ground enough to push along and she started by basically walking. Our bike and walk outings went from a few miles around the hills of the neighborhood to around the block and back home. And little by little, we started to see improvements. She would glide the last 10 feet down the driveway. She would almost come to a complete stop before she put her foot down to catch herself.
Last night, we watched her glide down a slight hill on the sidewalk for almost 100 feet without touching her feet. Her balance wasn't perfect, and it really looked like she could use someplace to put her feet. Maybe it was time.
I put the pedals back on, and she was immediately more concerned with pedaling and braking than balancing. I helped her by holding on, but it did not go well. She put her bike away, told me I didn't do a good job for her, and went inside.
Brooklynn will quit on things if she doesn't immediately succeed. It's one of the things we are a little worried about her with as she starts school this fall. Rhiannon told her to try one more time. To just push along like she knows how, and if she felt good about it, maybe put her feet on the pedals. And if she still felt good, maybe pedal once around.
She got back on the bike. One more time, she told us. But that was it. And then...
I had to kick her off the bike to get ready for bed. She told me that she's going to ride all afternoon today.
I've never been so proud.
After a pretty dry spring, we've finally been getting some rain lately. Tonight, after reassuring Brooklynn that the tornado watch did not mean we should move all the toys from the playroom into the basement shower for safekeeping, I got the girls outside in some nice rain.
If small puddles on the sidewalk are good, then the deeper water in the gutter is better, and that makes the fast moving water on the hill the best. Not to worry, Maddi only brought about a half inch of water in the bottom of each of her boots inside with her.
It's a little hard to tell from the profile along, but the title should have given it away. We are adding a little bit more pink to the family. I'm going to start building a man fortress now to ward off the future onslaught of princess toys and prom dresses.
I'd also like to announce, that for the time being, we have a name. Baby 3G has officially joined the family, as about a week ago, I felt her kicking for the first time. Welcome, little girl. You have no idea what you're getting yourself into.
It's hard not compare the children. As much as I try to recognize them for their own unique traits, I reference a lot of my experience to Maddi back to what Brooklynn was like at a similar age. And the more I reference back, the more I find myself thinking, Brooklynn would not have been doing that.
At the playground near our house, there are a few tall ladders. Brooklynn was cautious around high things that could lead to falls. Maddi is not. I was with Brooklynn at a different part of the playground for a couple minutes and realized that Maddi was no longer on the little kid section of slides. And I couldn't see her.
My initial thought was that she had headed up the sidewalk toward the street, so I briskly walked around to the street side of the equipment and scanned the edge of the road. No Maddi. As I turned back to the mulched play area, there she was, on the chain ladder about three times as tall as herself. She was one rung from the top and trying to figure out what to do since the hand holds were different than the rest of the way up.
I walked over and showed her the handles on the sides of the platform. Away she went.
Unlike Brooklynn, Maddi does not like assistance when she climbs. Into cars. Up ladders. Over the edge of the bath. No, do not touch her. If you do, that constitutes a violation of her do-it-myself attitude and she has to start all over. And then you also get scolded by a toddler, "No Daddy! Mah-SEFF!" If you are really fortunate, she will continue to mutter her version of myself to, well, herself, as is to ward off any unwanted assistance.
Keep that free spirit, Maddi. Just don't look down.
My biggest problem? I can't figure out what to call baby #3 before he/she decides to join us.
Brooklynn was Beta (for beta release version)
Maddi was Artoo (for R2, or revision 2)
I'm halfway tempted to follow the Star Wars convention and go with Threepio, for C-3PO, (using the C3 for child 3...), but I haven't committed to that. Feels a little contrived.
Brooklynn suggested Molly which was nixed for being too gender specific. Maddi contributed her idea of "Baby". Real original, honey.
So, baby #3 for now.
Mornings have slowly evolved into a routine in the house. On a good day, this finds me up and ready before either of the girls are awake. While they are both capable of being a little independent, it's just easier to get started without them requiring any assistance. Since the time change a few weeks ago, this hasn't been an issue. It's still dark prior to 7am, and to this point, doesn't come too far ahead of sunrise. Some mornings, if we had an early bedtime the night before, Maddi will start making noise. We recently took the side off of her crib, and even though she can get out of her bed, she typically doesn't. Maybe it's the low side that's on it to keep her from rolling out. Maybe it's the fact that she can't open the doors in the house so she can't really go anywhere anyway. Whatever it is that keeps her in bed when she wakes up, I'm not going to complain.
Even if she isn't awake, Maddi typically pops up quickly after I walk in. She likes to have her diaper changed right away, and then a new outfit is selected. If I don't have one picked out yet, I get assistance in the closet. Thankfully, Rhiannon loads the closet with matching outfits pre-sorted, so as long as I take the pants under whatever shirt Maddi grabs, we are good to go. Then she likes to run down the hall and say good morning to Rhiannon.
Before I get Maddi, I like to open Brooklynn's door. This lets the hall light shine in for a little bit before I get her. It doesn't mean she's awake. More often than not, it means when I go in, the blankets are pulled over her head and she has her back to the door. Where Maddi seems pretty excited about getting ready, Brooklynn does not. She doesn't like being uncovered. She doesn't like getting dressed, or getting out of bed, or getting breakfast. Asking a person to sit at a table and eat food prior to 7:15 is asking a lot.
Maddi runs to the pantry and usually requests rice krispies. Brooklynn sulks at the table and rejects the three options I give her before sighing heavily and selecting the first choice I already gave her, as if her life is about to end because her dad can't figure out what is the least objectionable food to start a day with. Keep in mind, least objectionable is a very fluid term - what was a hit one morning may be detested the next day. Peach kuchen bars had a solid two week run until she decided one morning that peaches weren't really good for breakfast anymore and could I just dig all those out?
Maddi finishes eating and runs around finding her SHOES and HAT and COAT and BACKPACK! Every morning is a new adventure full of things to learn. She can pick out her footwear. She can put on her own coat. What is this amazing beverage in my bottle today? Why, it's WATER! HOORAY LIFE!!
Brooklynn decides about the time we need to leave that her mostly untouched and inedible breakfast is now the finest dining experience and how can we be so cruel as to tear her away from such delicacies before she is allowed to finish eating? Life is not fair. If it's cold, we make her wear her winter coat, the bulky one that bunches up when she sits in the car. Travesty! If we relent and let her wear the less bulky (and less warm) one, she will decide about the time the garage door closes that she is freezing and where is her warm coat and why isn't the car toasty yet? Anguish and torment.
If our life were a sitcom with two teenagers, Maddi would be a cheerleader excited about the big game and Brooklynn would be a brooding renegade, wearing all black and muttering to herself about how the world doesn't understand her.
Then I start the soundtrack to the Frozen movie as we drive. Peace settles over the car, Brooklynn signs along and Maddi chimes in on the words that end the major phrases. Just a simple drive, day after day. Routine. Aside from being both exasperating and exhausting every single morning, it's kind of comforting.
Now, having committed all of this in writing, I'm guessing tomorrow morning will be drastically different.
I don't go to the doctor. Since I graduated from high school, I've been to a doctor for one issue. I tore my ACL and had replacement surgery. Not that I don't get sick. No, I think I've taken a half day off because of illness in my almost 9 year career. I've gotten colds and even had a couple rounds of throwing up. Maybe I've been a little hard headed about going in for medical attention, but things have always resolved themselves.
This winter, our first in North Dakota, Rhiannon has been sick. Brooklynn has been sick. Maddi has been cycling through cold after cold and rarely seem to clear one round before she comes down with the next one. And through it all, I've been relatively healthy. A couple days of blowing my nose a little more often, but nothing major. Just a typical winter illness season.
Wednesday night, my throat was sore. Last night, I had a fever of 103, was achy, and didn't have much of an appetite. I passed out around 8pm after we got the girls to bed and slept for 10 hours. Looking at symptoms, they seemed to line up a little bit with influenza.
Of course, with our move this year, this is the first year I haven't gotten a flu shot. At my old office, they would have a group come by and provide flu shots in the first floor conference room. At my new office, they don't bring anyone in. So, since I'm not used to going out to get a shot myself, I never got around to it.
Fearing the worst about illness and the fact she's never seen me get knocked out for 10 hours before, Rhiannon talked me into going to the doctor, and I listened to her. This morning, after sleeping for a long night and taking some medicine, I felt better. I had intended to stop in at work, fill out my time sheet, and take the day off. Three hours later, I finally left work and went to the local walk in clinic.
Having two kids that get sick from time to time and spending a week in the hospital with Brooklynn, I'm used to answering questions from doctors. It's still different answer questions about yourself. And having your ears looked in and neck felt.
The doctor I saw didn't feel like I had influenza. He suggested we test for strep and mono. Negative on both counts. Since there isn't much to do for general viral infections, his prescription was rest and ibuprofen as needed for pain and fever relief.
It's probably not the right attitude, but it doesn't make me think going to the doctor for general illness very soon again.
While Maddi is slowly progressing on her speaking vocabulary, her understanding is growing rapidly. At least her decisiveness in answering questions is getting better.
Maddi, would you like to go back to bed?
Maddi, would you like to cuddle in bed for a while with mom and dad in our room?
Maddi, would you like to watch some PBS shows on the TV?
Maddi, would you like eat breakfast out here by yourself?
Maddi, it’s 6:30am on the weekend. No one else in the house is up yet. Would you like me to sit out in the living room with you because you think it’s time to be awake now?
It’s nice that she can follow directions and answer an expanding repertoire of questions with increasing accuracy. We could do without the stubbornness. She latches on to ideas and won’t let go. Like she needs her pacifier more than we would like. She likes to take care of babies. And she is concerned about owies.
Maddi has a scratch on one of her knuckles, and the last time I asked to see her pretty painted nails, that was the only thing that concerned her. She points to her knuckle – owie, owie! It doesn’t matter how old the scratch or mark it, it’s still an owie.
If she bumps her head or runs into a wall – owie! If I have a scratch or bruise on my leg that she can see, she will walk over, point to it with her finger, and say in her most concerned voice, Owie! Then she will pat it as if to say, Don’t worry Dad, it’s going to be ok.
Last night, we were in the pool for parent/child swimming class. Maddi likes swimming and likes to be in the water, but the class gets over close to 7pm which is close to her bedtime. By the end of the class, she wasn’t happy and wanted to put her toy back in the tub and get out. She reached out to put the frog back and noticed her wrinkled fingers.
She held her hand out toward me and with a small cry, as if she was asking why we were still there so late at night, owie. She grabbed my hand, saw my fingers, point to them and informed that was also an owie. She patted my wrinkled hand with her wrinkled hand, put her head on my shoulder, and sighed a soft owie. It’s late, Dad. Let’s go home and get well.
One of the things that Rhiannon and I have always felt strongly about is reading the girls bedtime stories. When Brooklynn was really little, we read a couple books that were more for the parents than for the child, a half chapter at a time each night. As she got older, we transitioned into a couple books each night that you can read through in one sitting. I think she is finally old enough that we could start reading longer stories a little at a time again, kind of like breaking a movie up into small pieces. Maddi is also now old enough that she likes her picture books and enjoys to read the same book multiple times in one night or repeat the same story night after night so she can find the pictures and say the words that she knows.
Or, maybe neither of them need us anymore and they will take over their own story needs.
(Let's just keep the fact that Maddi's book is upside between us, ok? All she's really concerned with is that she finds which flap opens to reveal a baby.)
Kind of makes a guy feel old, especially when you consider that Sarah's oldest niece is eight and two years older than Sarah was when I first met her. At least now we can send her on a beer run. I knew we were keeping her around for something useful eventually.
Happy birthday, Sarah.
When we set up the tree, Maddi was taking a nap. Since it was the first time we were putting up decorations in the new house and didn't know exactly where everything should go, we felt it might be a little easier without the eager helping hands of the little one. Once the tree was up, we had a no touching policy. The ornaments are plastic, so breakage wasn't a huge concern. Rather, we just don't want the kids to get in the habit of rummaging through the indoor foliage. As we've done on more than occasion, we took our tree down on New Year's Day this year. Maddi was not asleep, and she was not going to miss out on the opportunity to finally play with all the ornaments that she's been looking at for the past month.
We made her help sort by color. Pink and purple and red and orange are pretty close together, so there were a few issues there. (I won't go into the fact that more of the issues were probably mine than Maddi's. I'll blame that on the fact that Rhiannon was telling Maddi which pile to place ornaments in and she wasn't offering any hints to me.)
December has had more days with lows below zero than days with lows above zero. In Colorado, lows below zero were considered life threatening. Here, they are just a fact of life.
I'm not saying that we're looking to move again, but I'm less than pleased with the first winter that North Dakota has rolled out to welcome us back.
In talking to a couple on Monday morning, they made the comment that the "fall back" time change is one of the best weekends of the year, mostly due to the fact that on Sunday morning, you get an extra hour of sleep. Unless of course, you are the parent of young children, in which case, it probably means you get to be up at what the clock says is really early on a weekend. In our case, Maddison decided that 5:45 was about as late as she cared to stay in her bed. Maddi is still in a crib, so she needs us to come and get her before she can get out of bed in the morning. She hasn't tried to climb out yet, but that's probably due to the fact that she has us trained to not leave in there too long. At some point, she started to shake the crib when she was awake and wanted out, and we jokingly made the comment that we'd better get in there before she shook the crib apart.
To Maddi, this is how it looked: She wants out, she shakes crib, and we come get her out. That's called positive reinforcement.
Fast forward to today - She wants out, so she shakes the crib. Except now she's getting big and strong enough that her shaking the crib apart feels like much more of a valid concern, so we really do go get her out pretty quickly. This morning, that happened at 6:15. 6:15 on a weekend will not be ok, so she needs to figure out this time change somewhat soon. I fear for the crib's safety if she doesn't.
This was our first year of having two kids holding out buckets for candy. While Brooklynn has been excited for trick-or-treating for months since she decided that she would be a princess, Maddi had no idea what was coming. We tried her costume on a couple weeks ago and she didn't like having the hood on her head. We figured that we would let her wear it a few times before hand to get used to it.
And then it was the morning of Halloween and we hadn't put it on her one time. The girls' school had a Halloween party, and I guess seeing the other kids in costume made it ok for Maddi to like hers, because we had no issues.
Brooklynn was also quite happy with her costume of a princess dress. The same dress she wore over the summer for her 4th birthday, except Halloween isn't in June. Brooklynn doesn't like to wear things like pants or sleeves with a dress because then she might be a real princess, and the idea of marring her perfect costume with everyday accouterments like a coat or sweater did not sit well with her. Unfortunately for her, the end of October in North Dakota isn't typically bare-arms weathter; hence, we ended up with the remnants of tears that you might notice in some photos.
Once we got going, both girls had a wonderful time. Brooklynn took care of the ringing of doorbells, typically remembering the trick-or-treat's and thank you's. The first couple houses we stopped at let the girls pick out candy from the bowls themselves, which confused Maddi for the rest of the evening. Instead of holding out her bucket, she would grab candy from everyone's hand and put it in the pail herself. Yes, she wants your candy, but no, you can't put your hand near her bucket. Thank you.
While Brooklynn didn't want to pose for pictures by herself, Maddi had no such issue. Unless of course, the posing may have prevented her from being up to a front door on time to get more candy.
Brooklynn goes downstairs, Maddi goes downstairs.
Brooklynn watches a little TV before bed, Maddi watches a little TV before bed.
Brooklynn hides in her closet, Maddi hides right along side her.
It's cute, it's fun, and someday, Brooklynn is going to have a melt down because she just wants to be left alone.
Someday, but not today.
When Brooklynn was 12 months, daycare asked if she could have peanut butter. Up until that point, we had never intentionally given her anything with peanuts in it, so we figured we try it out at home that weekend. We gave her a little peanut butter on a graham cracker and she loved it. She also broke out in hives about 15 seconds later, so we said no to the peanut butter. For the next few years, we avoided foods with nuts for Brooklynn. She’s better now, but we just never tried anything with nuts for Maddi either. Until last night, Rhiannon was having peanut butter and celery at the dinner table. Maddi reached for her own piece of celery, but she didn’t want it plain.
We put a little peanut butter on the celery and Maddi sucked it off. Apparently it met her approval because she handed the celery back to Rhiannon for a second helping. She didn’t immediately break out, so here goes nothing, right? Peanut butter on celery handed to Maddi and celery returned shortly thereafter, devoid of any nut products.
At that point, rather than support the habit of quadruple dipping her veggies, we just gave her a spoon.
She approved of that decision as well.
And no, Maddi does not typically eat dinner with no shirt, but between the yogurt and nachos and peanut butter, we were at the point of shirtless being the best option. I don’t judge your parenting style. Don’t judge mine.
Rhiannon started her new teaching job this week. It came a couple weeks later than she would have started down in Colorado, so we had a little reprieve, but school typically signals the end of summer. Of course, the first day of school this year was also the hottest day of the past three months, so who knows what anything means anymore. I have to admit, even though I work in Bismarck, there are days it still feels like vacation. Like this is just a temporary assignment and at some point it will end and I’ll go back to my real job. Change is hard. It was hard to pack up and leave our first house, the home we brought our girls to from the hospital. Hard to leave the security of established careers and futures.
At the same time, change is exciting. We are within weekend driving distance of grandparents. We can run out and see cousins for an evening. We no longer drive a combined 75 miles and 2 hour per day, 5 days a week, and the alarm doesn't go off before 6 am. Hopefully, in a few years, we'll have a chance to build a custom house on some land we picked out without living 50 miles from our jobs or not spending into the 7-figures to do it.
Brooklynn still talks about her friends from Colorado. Maddi doesn’t, but then, Maddi doesn’t talk. We are still adjusting to a new life. Last year at this time, we would never have predicted this is where we’d be. At times during the process of preparing to move and actually coming up, it seemed like it took forever. Looking back, we didn't finish nearly everything we wanted to do before it was time to leave.
Is there a point to this? No, not at all. But I'm going to start writing more, and I needed to start somewhere.
Here's a picture of Maddi and firetruck that Rhiannon had when she was little. Because let's be honest, with as little as I've been writing, people are just checking to see new pictures of the kids once in a while.