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That face

  

Photo courtesy of Lenore

Spouse and I have been utterly confounded to say who BeBe looks like. She looks like Nuala, sure. But Nuala looks like Grandmom, and BeBe doesn’t so much. Sometimes she’s a dead ringer for two older cousins (R&R) when they were babies. Here, she’s a dead ringer for JJ. I think. Can’t wait to see this girl grow up and into her face.

They don’t necessarily do grade years in Montessori, but we’ll call it first grade anyway. Cloudy, rainy, and less than optimal for a good first day picture, but we snapped one anyway this morning. The report from this afternoon: fantastic. So glad she’s back.

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Summer 2015

Oh hey, it’s August. Nuala goes back to school on Thursday. Wait a second…I do believe that means we made it through the summer! Being a family with two full-time working parents, summer presents the challenge of coordinating 9ish weeks of camps and alternative childcare. Most of the camps don’t coincide with normal working hours, so we–and mostly Spouse–had schedule like crazy, then be creative with our schedules. And so we were: 1 week of art paper camp and 1 week of Camp Invention, followed by 1 week with the Louisville family; 1 week of painting camp and 1 week of basically gym-all-day camp, followed by family Lake Day and several days with the Utica family; 1 week of theatre camp–except what now? She’s not registered? You don’t have any recollection of our conversation in April about wait lists and whatnot?–scratch that, back to the grandparents in Utica, 1 week of soccer camp, followed by a week of vacation; and here we are, at the beginning of August and working on getting Nuala ready for her first day back at the Montessori school. In the middle of things there, I traveled to England for 5 days and Oakland for 6 days. Spouse gets a gold star for managing everything and doing it well–baby, big kid, house, meals, yard, a last-minute eye exam when the big girl started squinting all of a sudden while watching TV and reading. And even though all my flights were almost all on-time and uneventful (save for losing my work iPad on the plane in London), I’m pretty sure I never want to travel again. I did a pretty poor job of capturing things on camera this summer, but there are some highlights.

Nuala got to spend a birthday gift card at Toys R Us, and she chose a sprinkler. Good call for the incredible heat we had early this summer; great opportunity for action shots. I never got the lighting or framing quite right, but you get the idea:

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DSC_0094Dad got in on the action:

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As well as the baby, who caught a little less air and was a little less excited about the cold water:

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Let’s skip over June and most of July…because I have almost no photographic evidence that those months happened…and go straight to our for-real vacation! We rented a house on the beach in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with the O’Zees and counted down days all summer until we could get in the car and drive SO MANY HOURS to get there. It was totally worth it, and I’d do it again a dozen times over. Just not next week.

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Why anyone drives south from Kentucky for vacation in the middle of summer, I will never know. Go to Lake Michigan, people. Scratch that: don’t go, and leave it for us. We never got close enough to the other families on the lake to make out their faces, and not a single powered boat passed by close enough to hear the motor. It was absolutely magical.

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Sunset from the deck and hot tub…and the full moon setting in the morning, later in the week.

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Most of the time was spent like this:DSC_0205

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And this:

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In between trips to the beach, the elder O’Zee boy taught Nuala how to play Pokemon.DSC_0247

And BeBe helped Lenore play a song or two.DSC_0245

The rental included three kayaks in the garage, and we made good use of them. I took BeBe out twice and Nuala once. It’s kind of a pain to row a one-person kayak on choppy water with a kiddo in front of you, but awfully nice to have the baby conk out for her morning nap on the waves and to have the big girl lean back and say, “This is so relaxing, Mom.” Uh, thanks, I’ll just keep rowing against the current. Spouse had a great time too, even though he got tipped out on a super windy day and had to wade in waist-deep water all the way back up the beach.DSC_0206

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We kept excursions to a minimum, spending one day at the Mystery Spot! which probably cost more than it should, but was somehow well worth the expense? There were zip lines, and harnesses, helmets, heights, and speed are right up Nuala’s alley (ours too). Another day, we went to the GarLyn zoo right down the road. Zoos are pretty sad places when you think about the animals’ lives, but as small-town zoos go–and there’s really no town to speak of in the area–it wasn’t bad. The peacocks were pretty awesome.

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There was a beautiful rooster who was intent on doing a good job crowing.

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And a very photogenic tortoise:DSC_0137

Also a couple of bear cubs with a lot of energy:DSC_0147One of whom lives in the enclosure with an abandoned dog. They’re apparently big buddies.

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I was sort of mesmerized by the foxes’ faces. What is with those eyes?

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And as usual, BeBe was among the most adorable things there (although the baby pot-bellied pigs were a close second (no photos, unfortunately).DSC_0184

Cutest baby ever loves her daddy:

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We have historically done a terrible job of taking vacations, but we have resolved not to make this mistake any more. Plans are under way for a repeat next year.

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Out on a limb

 

 

On Nuala’s birthday weekend all the way back in May, we did a tree-climbing adventure at Lost River Cave. It was about as cool as it looks (which is to say, pretty daggone cool).

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A couple weeks ago, I started writing a letter to the principal of Nuala’s school explaining our departure and it grew out of control in no time flat. We have a lot of complaints. The internet is a limitless repository of complaints about public education (and higher education, for that matter) these days, and I don’t necessarily want to pile on, but our experience confirms much of what I’m reading, such as:

…we tend to rely on rewards and recognition to reinforce conformity. What is so offensive about Skinnerian programs like PBIS or Class Dojo isn’t just their methods, which amount to extended exercises in manipulation, but their goal, which is to elicit mindless obedience.

The “clip chart” has been the bane of our existence this year: a multiple-times-daily and public exercise in enforcing behavior. It raised our hackles at the beginning of the year; we followed up with a wholly unsatisfactory conversation about the nature of the clip chart and the program to which it is attached, then gritted our teeth and rolled our eyes throughout the rest of the school year. Maybe one of the things for which Nuala “cilpped down” was social in nature–she shoved a classmate. I’m totally okay with consequences for antisocial behavior. I’d be happier if they enforced a routine of kids handling their own interpersonal conflicts, but whatever. The rest of her (many) transgressions were about failing to follow rules or do precisely what she was told when she was told to do it. Our response? She’s five. She’s headstrong. Of course she doesn’t do what you ask all of the time. She doesn’t do what WE ask all of the time, and it’s not because she’s a bad kid. It’s because she’s five, highly distractible, and bored out of her mind.

At the end-of-year event this week, a handful of kids received awards for clipping down two or fewer times throughout the whole year. How this is possible is beyond me, the mother of a child who clipped down more like two times or fewer per week. We had another good eye-rolling moment later that day, when we looked at the book she’d compiled with her teacher’s help to commemorate her year in class. There was lots of language from Leader in Me sprinkled throughout, but the one piece that caught our eye was a sentence about the positive relationship between leadership and following rules–something like “A leader is one who follows rules.”

Seriously.

Our minds were boggled, then, to see her final report card, where her scores for “independence” dipped in the last quarter of the year.

Our conclusion? They have no idea what they’re doing, at least in regard to “independence.”

Six

Today this girl is six years old. In the parlance of our times, I can’t even.
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In regular people parlance, I can’t even believe how many things I’ve missed out on documenting in the last year. Nuala had a dance recital on Mother’s Day weekend and it was adorable. Here she is doing a “ball change” to “These Boots Were Made for Walkin’.” DSC_0040

It has been a whirlwind year, lots of ups and downs. The ups are mostly because Nuala is an awesome kid, tremendously funny and bright and silly and interesting and sweet. The downs are mostly because her school has been disappointing in the extreme. It’s a public school that many in town agree is one of the two best (townies prefer the other one; university people prefer ours). The list of complaints we have about this year is too long to get into now, but the short version of it is “square peg, round hole.” I think a lot of kids are square pegs, and it’s not just Nuala who chafes at the particular routines and methods they use. Not a week has gone by this year where Spouse and I weren’t upset at something going on–endless fundraising, obsession with behavior tracking, ever-present sweets used as rewards, the cult-like aspects of the “Leader in Me” program, Nuala being allowed only to check out library books that she could’ve read a year ago–and we spent the year wondering whether and how we could work out sending her back to the Montessori school. We finally took the plunge last week and sent in her enrollment packet. It’s going to be a stretch, but the peace of mind knowing that we’re back on the same page as her teachers, which happens to be the same page that Nuala herself is on, is worth every penny.

We are in the midst of a great leap forward with BeBe. All of a sudden she knows a blue million words. Not that she can say them, but that she recognizes and responds accordingly (if she feels like it). One of these words is “glasses,” which sounds something like “dass.” She looooves taking off my glasses and wearing them around, usually on her neck and shoulder region, and smiles so big when I ask her if she’s wearing my glasses.

DSC_0077 DSC_0085Also on her vocabulary list:

Nurse. She’s known this for some time, and we try to spell it out so as to reduce the risk of her diving down my shirt or disrobing me in public. We avoid this word now as I’m trying to wean ahead of a 5-day trip to England in June. Ugh, weaning…but after lugging a breast pump to a 3-day conference in March I wasn’t about to take it on a longer transatlantic trip, followed by another long trip to San Francisco in July. Damn work.

Books. And Pig. Every night I read Sandra Boynton’s Going to Bed Book right before I sing her nighttime song (Woody Guthrie/Billy Bragg’s “Ingrid Bergman,” which isn’t exactly child-friendly, but it is easy to sing and it’s short). The same cast of animal characters appears on each page, and among them is a little pig. I’ve been pointing out the pig for a few weeks and asking her “Where’s the pig? Where’s piggy?” She’s started picking him out of the lineup and boy is she happy with herself when she does.

Hug, kiss, pat, night-night, and bye-bye. She still does the baby open-mouth kiss, but we’re working on it.

Belly and belly button, both of which she would love to show you if only you would ask.

Blocks, with which she can occupy herself for a good long while, and can I get an amen for that one?

Milk, cereal, cheese, apples, banana, bite, all done, and more. She learned a sign for “more,” which, same as Nuala, she uses to indicate “want.” So she’ll sign “more” when I get myself a glass of water or pick up a piece of paper she’d like to get her hands on. It’s a revelation to know that she can communicate like that, but it has certain limitations. Not only do we have to guess what, exactly, she wants, but she can be standing behind you signing away for “more” and you have no idea she’s asking for anything until she starts whining. Whining works pretty well, in any case.

And last but not least, she has the wherewithal to make a joke. She loves our phones, of course, and can do all sorts of things to my settings that takes me a while to undo. So I ask for her to give me my phone back and she extends it in her little hand and walks toward me…and then takes it back at the last minute, turns around, and “runs” away laughing. Repeat a dozen times and you have the better part of pre-dinner festivities.

She’s just getting warmed up. It’s going to be a fun summer!

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