the one about band-aids

Last week we attended Kindergarten Information Night. I forgot my brown paper bag at home, but it turned out we didn't need it. In fact, we are filled with such excitement for this leap into the next chapter of Caroline's life. We saw slides on expectations for kindergarteners; things like walking in a line, sitting quietly, taking turns, using indoor voices. We sighed in relief when the principal reviewed the November benchmarks they are hoping this class of about 150 will achieve. We snickered because one of the items was "draw a picture that tells a story," which makes me think of our favorite picture Caroline has drawn recently, entitled "Daddy in the shower." No, she has never seen Daddy in the shower, but she did just start taking them herself and is pretty much in love with the hot water and the amazing acoustics. It's The Little Merrmaid all the time. We know she is more than prepared for kindergarten, already achieving many of the November benchmarks. I say that not to brag, but because we and her teachers feel that her success in this transition lies in preparation.

Caroline and change are not exactly compatible. Confidence in the classroom will help tremendously not just with her lessons, but in her overall coping of all the "new." We are also fortunate in that our school district has a transition day in the spring. Incoming classes get together in their rooms for the afternoon to meet and see the space. In late august, she will sit with us and her teacher for 45 minutes for a screening and a get to know you session. 45 minutes, What a dream, and yet, we still have some reservations. Caroline will love her teacher, but she will not now many of her classmates. In fact, the only ones she will know will be the ones I am able to get together with over the summer from transition day and that is a lot of pressure on mama to create connections, don't you think?

We made a huge decision last week to send her to day camp for the summer. Some of her good friends from school went last summer and we think it is a good first step in removing the preschool band-aid. She graduates on June 20th and she starts camp the following Monday. If you need me that week, I'll be buried under blankets watching slideshows of my baby with a box of Kleenex and a bottle of cheap wine. Camp. She will ride a bus, swim twice a day, learn camp songs, run and race and be a kid and oh, I am so excited for her. The hope is that her camp experience (in addition to being an absolute blast) will also help her gain confidence socially, thus making the whole September school start easier and less stressful. I am sure that by the time that rolls around she will be running away from me at school on day one, finding her seat, pulling out her crayons and waving goodbye, with a big sweet smile on her face. I will die a little inside, I will cry and she will not, and my big girl will be on her way. On her way to who knows what, something surely greater than I can imagine, limited only by her imagination and drive. This tenacious little girl, taking tentative first steps into the next chapter and instead of holding the page down, I am barely able to keep myself from flipping ahead.

Unplug

From 1-4pm it is an all out race to the finish most days; Returning calls, checking messages, responding to said messages, documenting, sending emails over our ridiculously outdated system, documenting, and driving towards home in the process to avoid city rush hour traffic. I push myself to get it all done, so I can put the work away, both in my bag and emotionally/mentally out of my mind. Off my shoulders. It's hard sometimes. At any given time, one of my patients is probably in the pre active or active stage of the end of this road. I try to disconnect at night. My daytime life makes me thankful for every second of my life at home.

Tonight I was working with Caroline on her "share" for school tomorrow. She wants to tell her class that she saw the "big grey plane" that flew over the Patriots game Sunday. "it flew right over Kiki's house!" We found a picture of the C5, learned it had flown in from Westover Air Force Base back west. We printed a map of Massachusetts and traced the trip from Nana and Granda's to Gillette. While we wrote "go pats" and "87" and "12," Connor was playing hockey swinging the stick way to close to his sister's head. As our little geography lesson came to a close, I helped myself to my iPhone.

Clear as day, my little hockey player, "mommy, play with me." "put you phone down."

Yeah, that.

and the party theme was sports, of course



We celebrated Connor's birthday while the rest of Massachusetts was sledding, shoveling or spending the day in pajamas. This is the risk you take in planning a winter birthday party. We kept the driveway clear, spread salt on the walkway, and crossed our fingers that everyone would get to us safely. Even my parents were able to make the drive across the state, though it took some last minute fine tuning to do so. We appreciated EVERYONE braving the roads to make Connor feel special. I'm sure they all felt warm and gooey on the inside when the birthday boy cried during the singing of "Happy Birthday." 










and then, just like that, he turned two

It hit me hard that my baby was enjoying his last day as a baby yesterday; the last day I could realistically state his age in months. I have been answering the question, "how old is he?" with "almost two" for far too long. Why? I lament now, wishing I had done the quick math in my head, "19 months," "22 months." The year flew as years often do, churning faster and faster with two full-time working parents and weekends stuffed to the brim with family time. Sure, we often spent a good chunk of that time in pjs chasing balls together, but to the working parent every second of that pj ball chase is to be savored and swallowed, digested, and recalled on a frantic Tuesday afternoon when I seem to miss them most.

Oh, the things I have to savor. Over the course of the year our Connor has become a sweet, outspoken, sports loving, pantless wonder. He heard new sounds thanks to a (now practically useless) ear tube placement in June. We marveled as he watched before unnoticed planes fly overhead and the new words spilled out of him like beans from a torn bean bag. While he rarely sits still, he often surprises me by plopping himself into my lap, just for a moment, reminding me that while he looks like he is three, he is my baby boy. He gives amazing hugs, complete with back pats. His voice has equal parts honey dipped sweetness and deep gutteral caveman. He has established unrealistic attachments to a handful of balls from his enormous collection. Each night there is a request for "orange one" or "football" and only a very specific match will satisfy. When Steve puts on sports, Connor will race to the play area to retrieve the appropriate equipment; hockey stick, ball and goal or football to tuck securely and safely under his right arm. He can name Gronk and Tom Brady upon sight and he knows which sport they play. He can tell you that his hockey team in the "buins." He is unsure of the Celtics and looks at me wild eyed when I ask him about the Red Sox. "What is this sport you speak of?!?" I think it is because he hasn't had a true full year season as a Boston sports fan yet and oh boy, am I am in trouble when Baseball season starts. The bat and ball will be out for sure. Breakables beware.

He loves his sister fiercely. "Where Caro-ine go?" We have reached the love hate stage, but I am happy to say it is mostly love. He parrots her every utterance, annoying her to no end, but delighting me to the moon and back. The two of them run wild at night, laughing and screeching and tackling one another. The kid has a mean tackle, from the knees, and he can take someone much bigger down without much effort. It is only a matter of time before he towers over his big sister. She will not like this one bit. These nightly screaming running rituals are often done half naked. Connor will pull at his clothes to indicate he wants them off, NOW. He gets his needs met and will often stand two inches from your nose and repeat his request until you fulfill it. It looks like this - except in recent months, you can insert "prep and landing" in place of "Mommy."




Caroline could be drinking from a regular cup all the time, but we learned you need to give them the exact same thing, the same contents, and the same amount or endure the Wrath of Con.  The temper on this one, complete with full body on the ground tantrums, is like nothing we have seen before. His intense passion springs forth in this way too, and oh, two years old. It's going to be a year that tries our patience and makes us want to pull our hair out, but at least he finally reached a point where we can sit him in time out and he stays there. He's been getting more familiar with that bottom step. He will pull Caroline's curls, just to pull them. He will throw her doll house bath tub just to incite her. He will lay in her path and refuse to move, just to guage her reaction. She has gotten better at telling us and not trying to deal with it in a physical way herself. He has gotten better at flopping and forcing us to move his limp refusing to comply body from whatever "not nice" thing he is doing. In the very next moment, they will sit side by side silently coloring at their table, or relocate the entire kitchen for a picnic. They will sit in their comfy reading chairs and flip through books for entire ten minute spans! We do suspect brother and sister took perhaps their final shared tub last night. Legs and arms all twisted together, no room for both to lie flat and "swim." She prefers showers now and that feels like the end of an era. Growing, so big, so fast.

He took popsicles to school today to share with his friends and he was practically jumping out of his crib this morning to see his birthday cake, already frosted. He requested, "fuh-fetti" even though I offered him chocolate. The Mc-side of this family claims another one of the children.

And he is smart, oh so smart, but we only get brief windows into his understanding. Always curious, but not yet asking all the questions we know will come during this third trip around the sun. I can occasionally convince him to help me count while I get him zipped into his pjs and he astounds me by couting all the way to twenty, and I can't help but wonder if this is where his knowledge or interest ends. In his tub the other night he started singing lines from "Twinkle, Twinkle." I was shocked because while I sing this to him most nights in the bath and at bedtime, he has never once sung along. Now at bedtime, I pause and he fills in the blanks, no matter where I put them. Sneaky boy. Only sharing part of this little world with us. He requested ABC last night and did the same thing. Ask him to do it on command, no. Not going to happen, but in these brief interludes, I see how rich his world is, how much he truly does understand, how hungry he is to learn.

Our baby is not a baby anymore. He is bright and charming, a light in all our lives. He is so loved, by so many. Happy Second Birthday to our son, the one and only Con Con the Bon Bon, who calls himself "Connie."

our internal birthday battle

Once Halloween hits, BANG, it's a race to the New Year. I'm sure all families feel this way to some extent. Shorter days, cooler weather, the unbelievable whirl and whoosh of seasonal magic stirred with parties, family, food and festivities. It's fun and it's special and it is EXHAUSTING. The post holiday blues aren't exactly a reality here at McCasa. With two winter birthdays three weeks apart, I can hardly gasp for air between ordering Chinese food on New Year's Eve and placing candles on the kids' cakes.

We've been on the birthday party circuit for Caroline for well over a year now. We held off on a school friend birthday party last year because it still felt like we were getting our feet wet at her school. \I am ready to dive in this year to celebrate my baby girl's FIFTH birthday. Connor turns two this week and while we want to celebrate this milestone, we're more comfortable with a low key family celebration. This is where I struggle to make it special for each of them in an age appropriate way. I want to plan special things for each independent of one another, but with the events practically on top of one another, it's a challenge. I foresee this being even more challenging as time goes on, especially when it comes to budgeting for Christmas and birthdays at the same time.

This is how I came to find myself in Target about a week ago buying 30 popcorn boxes AND sports themed paper products. Last week I struggled to carry multiple sports balls cutouts AND an armload of red and white garlands. My brain in split - low key sports maniac birthday - big top benefit with amazing entertainment. Then I glance ahead and see snow forecasted for Saturday when we will celebrate Connor's birthday. Oh the joys of a winter birth.

I'll tell you what else, this isn't exacly helping us cope with Caroline's increasing birthday jealousy. This morning she announced in the car that she wasn't sure she would be attending Connor's birthday party. Really, where else do you think you would be exactly? I tried to have a discussion about it, to talk about how a birthday party is a family's way of celebrating that the birthday boy or girl is a part of our life. It's the whole family's day. "You love having Connor in your family, don't you?" I could see her in the rear view, needing more convincing and sporting a pout. In some ways the close proximity of their special days is a blessing. "Yours is just around the corner." It might help.

Someday we will throw them an amazing surprise 1/2 birthday in July, with a bounce house and water fun and  OUTSIDE and NOT SNOW and it will be amazing and I will stick my tongue out at the universe and climate change. Someday!

Until then, I'll be on Pinterest pinning circus themed items, ordering Blue Ribbon BBQ for the boy, adding an alert to my iPhone to pick up his cake on Friday, confirming a juggler who is follow up deficient, and searching for a popcorn machine rental.

as we approach five, a big milestone

I was an early reader. I remember reading Dick and Jane aloud to my mother in her bedroom. I recall that she sometimes fell asleep as I droned on, "See Dick. See Dick Run." I was a voracious reader. In second grade when they broke us into "reading groups" and gave us names like "Otters" or "Caterpillars," they weren't fooling anyone. We knew even at seven years old that we were in the accelerated group. We used to read around in a circle aloud during Reading Time. There is a specific incident I recall where we were reading a story about an ice skater, Tai Babilonia, and I lost my place because I was reading ahead. When it was my turn, I had no idea where the previous reader had left off because I wanted to know so badly the outcome of all of the skater's training. I got in very big trouble. Point of all this, I loved to read. It's a pity I cannot seem to find time for it now. When I do it seems to be limited to "Scream Free Parenting."

Caroline was completely uninterested in letters last spring. It was an area we and her school continually reinforced and worked on with her. If you pointed to a letter and asked her to name it, she wouldn't even acknowledge the letter in question, but simply shout out a letter name she knew. It was frustrating, but we wanted to support her and not push it too much. She was after all only four, even if most other four year olds knew all their letter and numbers, she would get there.

This fall her interest in letters blossomed and she began to recognize "sight words" including the names of all her classmates. She has since learned to write nearly every letter of the alphabet, can write words and even sentences if you assist with some dictation. That's how she wrote her sweet First Letter to Santa this year. She fills pages with letters, sometimes words, and she is often seen copying the letters from her environment onto a piece of paper. (all with her legs crossed ladylife in front of her, which is a completely different post, but incredibly amusing to watch)

I purchased the first set of Bob Books for her back when Borders was closing. We opened them and we tried the first one and she was so frustrated that I knew it was too early. You see, Caroline is the girl who likes to use her imagination with reading. She likes you to read it to her so she knows the story and then she likes to "read" it again by herself, using the pictures to guide her. Over the summer I wondered if she realized there was a story there to read at all, but we paused on pushing too hard with the reading. She would get there. In time.

and get there she did.

Her interest has grown to new exciting levels and I cautiously reintroduced her to the Bob Books last night; Book One, "Mat."

She's on the verge, I just hope we have enough books for her appetite.

hustle puff

Today, I earned respect for my younger self. I got a request to do a hospice informational at Brigham and Women's in Longwood. I hesitated and sighed in my head because, really, DOWNTOWN? and then I smiled and asked for the details because I am in the middle of a transition at work that will end my rides through the airport tunnel. This would be a workplace miracle. I hustled my butt to 93 North and headed onto Melnea Cass. I panicked thinking about parking, but luckily this was my old 'hood and I knew a secret place to find a meter spot. A meter spot with 2 hours and 30 minutes ticking away, green sticker and all. I added a quarter just to make that time officially mine, stuffed my hands into my gloves, and smiled as I headed toward the hospital. I laughed out loud when I saw the garage across from the entrance was 7 dollars for the first hour. It was only a few block walk, easy. Except, it wasn't. By the time I hit the spinning hospital entrance I was huffing from my speedwalking.

In 2004, we lived in Natick and I took the train to and from Boston each day by way of the Longwood stop. In the mornings I caught the shuttle to the office most mornings because there was usually one waiting. I caught a shuttle if I could in the afternoon, but this was a rarity because I am historically tardy, beyond tardy, and leaving on time for a train was a near impossibility. The traffic at quarter to five was so terrible in Longwood that it was faster for me to walk/run to the stop. So I did. Racing all the way from Dana-Farber or Children's all the way to the Longwood Stop across the street from Fenway. Some days I speed walked, some days I ran, and most days I caught the train. Sure I was a bit out of breath when I launched myself up the steps, but I had made it.

It felt odd to back there. I waited for no less than five elevators to get one that was not absolutely packed headed up to the towers. FIVE. I watched people parade on ahead of a woman in a wheelchair, dressed in a johnny, with an IV bag hanging. I was disgusted.

When I left the hospital to make the trek back to my STUPID parking spot that seriously could not have been further away from the hospital, I recalled that I had lived "just around the corner" and had WALKED everyday in 2001. How did I do this? Everyday?

I went along this memory lane of sorts and started to recall the walk to the other Green Line stop I did when we lived in Cleveland Circle in 2003. Ten minutes at least at a brisk walk, ten minutes more UPHILL walk on the way home after watching no less than three PACKED trains breeze right by me on their way outbound. How?

I realized I had been right here, my whole life in Boston. I had been up the road at Northeastern, down the road in JP, way further down the road in Cleveland Circle. I had been RIGHT THERE and right there was a really annoying place to get to from just about ANYWHERE. My poor parents who drove in to visit had to not just drive to Boston, but annoyingly through it just to get me. Steve had to brave Melnea Cass or Columbus. I didn't realize how annoying this was until I was in my car fighting to get out of that place to my next appointment in Brockton. I didn't realize this because I didn't have a car when I was a Boston girl. I didn't worry about parking, traffic, meters, trolleys on Huntington. I didn't have to. I caught a train, a shuttle, or used my feet. It is no wonder I was in the most amazing shape of my life and I didn't need a gym to look like that. It was built into my everyday and yes, I still resented it the way I resent a workout now, but at least at the end of it, I actually got somewhere. I wasn't just standing still in space, moving my legs on a trail to nowhere.

I was a bit nostalgic for the hustle and bustle of it all, but I was happy to drive away and leave it behind me. That ship has sailed, I just need to find a daily work out like that again.