Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First Day of Preschool

Yesterday was Gwen's first day at preschool. She has been talking about this for MONTHS and the day certainly lived up to her expectations - and ours. Just as we were incredibly lucky to find the exact right daycare for her, almost two and a half years ago, we have once again lucked out and found the exact right preschool for her. The proof is that the preschool is owned and operated by her daycare caregiver's mother.

Did you catch all that? Gwen has been with her caregiver, D, for over two years, and adores her. D learned everything she knows about caregiving from her mother, S, who runs a preschool, where D worked for many years. D & S have very similar attitudes and philosophies of care. Gwen is now going to daycare twice a week with D and preschool twice a week with S. We just couldn't ask for a better arrangement.

Gwen played shy for about 10 seconds with the teacher this morning until she saw all the toys, activities, and so on. Then she was in heaven. A couple of times she wanted me to look at the exciting stuff she had discovered, but mostly she couldn’t care less that we were there! The teacher ran us through the sign-in/out procedures, gave us the newsletter and calendar, showed us a few things that we need to do/know, showed Gwen where to put her lunch when she comes in, showed us her cubby (sniff) etc etc. When we left, we couldn't even get Gwen to raise her eyes and acknowledge our leaving.

I was so impressed with how smoothly S helped Gwen through her shyness and set the tone for their interactions. She introduced her to another child there and asked him to show her where to put her lunch - giving them both an opportunity to be competent. "Putting your lunch in the big fridge every day is YOUR job, Gwen!" she encouraged. Gwen loves to help and loves to have important jobs, so she was all over it.
I spent my day kind of wishing I was at preschool instead of work – not because my daughter needs me (she does NOT) but because it seems so much more fun. We took some pictures and were highly impressed when we returned in the afternoon to find that there were already pictures in Gwen's memory book that were taken that day as well. The teachers also put up pictures every week on the board so parents can see what the kids are doing. And we are supposed to bring in a group of pictures of our family so Teacher can help Gwen make a family collage and put it on the family wall. There is also a family get-together night a few times a year so we can all get to know one another. These are the things that excited me about this place – so family-oriented, such a community.

And then, and THEN! The best part! D's teenage daughter comes in to help at the preschool sometimes - and yesterday was one of those times. And she walked in and said, “Hi, Gwen” and Gwen’s face LIT UP. She LOVES this kid. I could see she felt so happy and comfortable to have a familiar face there. She was already doing well, but that was the icing on the cake.

I understand that the school is generally closed in summer, but they open for this last week of August to orient the new kids in a quieter time. As such, this week there will only be 7 kids in and then starting next week it is 14 kids. Of course Gwen will only be there 2 days a week. I already looked at the calendar for the upcoming months to get a sneak peek of what's coming up. Here are some samples:

Cooking day – let’s make applesauce!
Baking – banana bread day!
Let’s make muffins!
Cooking – vegetable soup!
Bowen Park leaf collecting!
Carving Jack o Lanterns!

And yes, they all have the exclamation points after them. I do like that they put the activities on different days all the time so over the next three months Gwen will get to do lots of different things, not like they ALWAYS bake on Tuesdays and she misses Tuesdays.

At the end of the day I could hardly wait to go pick her up and find out how her day went. She was thrilled to see us, rushing towards us with her usual exuberant shouts of "MOMMY! DADDY!" and big hugs. She then told us, "You can go back home now. I want to stay at school." No surprise there. We did manage to coax her to leave, though not before she showed us all the fun things she did and all the great places she discovered.

Anyway I am so, so pleased with every single aspect of this. And even though it’s sad that my baby is growing up, it is also really exciting and awesome that my baby is growing up.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Dear Gwen: Month Forty

Dear Gwen,

Today you are 40 months old.

It’s been a really busy month. We spent some time in Powell River and at our family cabin on Powell Lake a couple of weeks ago. Usually when we’re there, we’re surrounded by a loud and lively crowd of people, which is … well, loud and lively. And, you know, not that there’s anything wrong with that. But this time, it was just four of us: you and me, and your Grandpa Ron and Grannie Maureen. It was a really special and fun time. You and your grandparents enjoyed each other so much, and it was so great to watch you get to know each other a little bit better. It was also very cool to have some daytrip visitors: your great Grandpa George came up for a day and made you giggle uncontrollably. Another day, our friends Nicole and Breana visited, and it was a lot of fun to watch you interact with someone close to your own age; it was also fun to see the many differences between a two-year-old and a three-year-old!

Close on the heels of the cabin trip was the annual fair in Nanaimo, the Vancouver Island Exhibition (VI-Ex). We decided to buy passes and spend two days there, and they were action-packed days! You went on many rides – although you are now tall enough for crazy stuff like the mini-roller coaster and the Ferris Wheel (if I go along), you still prefer the merry-go-round to anything else. We also watched several shows at the community stage. You were completely entranced by a local dance troupe, and you got to ham it up as part of the magic show! Another highlight was the fact that since you were the only kid to show up for the Children’s Parade, you walked away with a lovely prize ribbon for “Best Costume”. (If I’d known it was a prize-potential situation, I might have dressed you in something a little more organized than “Superhero Warrior Parade Leader”, but then again … enh, probably not.)

Summer with a potty-trained, non-napping kid … ahh, what a lovely thing. Not worrying about nap schedules or diapers or bringing along special food and utensils? Absolutely priceless. I tell you, three is my favourite age. You are so full of energy and joy and competence, and you are learning so much every day. For example, while your dad and I often lament that you seem to have much better things to do than listen to us, you proved me wrong while we were at the fair. You were trying your best to climb a very steep inflatable track so that you could go down the slide, but you slipped near the top, bumped down, and gave yourself a scare. After a cuddle from me, you decided you wanted to try again (persistence! Great trait!). I pointed out to you the grid of red canvas straps on either side of the track that you could hold onto as you climbed. Sure enough, you heeded my words, held the straps, and had a hugely successful slide down. Hooray! Sometimes, Mom does know what she’s talking about.

I was also very impressed with your bravery on some of the rides at the fair. You weren’t quite sure about the roller coaster, and once it started it became clear that it was not your favourite. Still, you coped. And what really astounded me was when you got off the ride and said to me, “That ride was a little bit scary. But it was also still fun.” You told me that the worst part of the ride was how bumpy it was … and the best part of the ride was how bumpy it was.

This month also saw an important new addition: a big-girl bed. Yes, you outgrew your toddler bed some time ago (you are about 40” tall) and we found a single mate’s bed for you on Craigslist. With the contribution of new bedding from your Gramma and a new paint job by Gramma and me, your room has been transformed into a big kid room! You love your new bed, and I love that we can sit on it together to read stories, and snuggle in it at bedtime and in the morning.

Lately at bedtime, much to my sadness, you refuse to tell a “rainbow story” from beginning to end. Instead, you insist that “it’s your turn and my turn and your turn,” so we tell the story together, a couple of sentences at a time. A few nights ago, we told the story of an imaginary rabbit named Peter (whose day was much more playground-centric than Beatrix Potter could have thought). At the end of the story, you asked, “What do you think the best part of Peter’s day was?” and then you told me what it was, based on the story we had just told. You knew what the worst part of Peter’s day was, too – AND your answers made sense. Awesome abstract thinking!

You continue to astound me with your abilities. Your dad bought you a math activity book rated for “Pre-K” which I suppose, technically, you are, and you blew me away not only with the fact that you COULD do the activities, but the fact that you WANTED to. Sure, I had to read you the instructions, because amazing though you are, you can’t read quite yet (give it another couple months …). In one case, I was trying to figure out how to explain the activity to you in terms you could understand, when you suddenly started doing it, CORRECTLY, on your own. Kid, you are leaving me in the dust.

A new skill has emerged this month, and it’s one that I couldn’t be more pleased about. You are now able to wash your own hands after a meal. Generally, both you and the surrounding area are a food-encrusted, soggy mess when you finish eating. The fact that I can now delegate part of the clean up by sending you off to the bathroom to wash your own hands? I love it. Not only are you learning good grooming habits, but your crazy busy hands are out of my way while I clean up the rest of the disaster area. It’s a great milestone and I am a big fan.

As I mentioned last month, we got you enrolled in gymnastics, which is due to start in a few weeks. This will be your first EVER non-parent-participation class! I can’t wait to see how you will do. Even more exciting than gymnastics is the big event coming next Monday: your first day of preschool. You are SO excited about this! We have already gone to the store and picked out your new lunchbox together (surprisingly, you did not choose Batman OR Tinkerbell, but Hello Kitty). Although you have told me a few times that you want me to come with you to school (and oh, wouldn’t I love to tag along!), I am pretty sure that once we arrive you will be ready to dive in to all the new experiences and friendships that school has to offer. I’ll be lucky if I get a “Bye!” from over your shoulder as you ditch me at the door. At which point I will put your freshly-labeled clothes into your cubby, hand your lunch to a teacher, and go cry in my car because my baby is ALL GROWN UP.

So many milestones this summer, Gwen. It feels like time is flying by and before I know it, you’ll be celebrating another birthday! I think these newsletters are my way to try and capture the little moments that make up our day-to-day lives, my way to try and slow time down and keep all these memories.

As always, my big girl, I love you a million billion kajillion and three!



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