Kindergarten Chronicles

As hard as it may be to believe, we are about halfway through the school year. Charlotte’s months in kindergarten have provided us with an endless source of entertainment (and stacks upon stacks of “artwork”). Some highlights:

  1. Charlotte’s class has a bunch of activity centres, which the kids rotate through during the school day. Charlotte’s fantasy is to go to school at night or on the weekend, when there is no one else there, and have all the centres to herself. You should see the gleam in her eye as she contemplates this possibility. I am afraid that I will get a phone in the middle of night from the police, saying my four-year-old has been caught trying to break into the school.
  2. One of these centres involves a letter-writing activity, and is immensely popular. Charlotte comes home with letters her friends have written to her, letters she has written to herself, and letters she has made for us. Initially, the letters were rolled up and sealed with a sticker, like a medieval scroll, and then a thoughtful parent donated some envelopes to the class, and so now the letters are properly sealed and presented in a sticker-covered envelope. There is one problem, though: Charlotte puts so much effort into decorating the envelope that she gets very upset whenever we try to open a letter because it ruins the artistry of said envelope. So now I have stacks of unopened letters from Charlotte piling up all over the place.

    Mail call!

    Mail call!

  3. It has become clear that the currency among the kindergarten set is the birthday party invitation. Every day, Charlotte comes home and tells me who is and who is not invited to her birthday party. Which is six months away. She makes lists of who she wants to invite, and the list changes daily. As well, she tells me about how so-and-so said that she couldn’t come to THEIR birthday party so she isn’t going to invite them to HER party. This list also changes daily. God help me when it actually is time for her birthday party and I have to figure out the guest list.
  4. Just this past week, we received a notice from the school that someone in Charlotte’s class has lice. I immediately started hyperventilating and scratching my head. I live in fear of discovering lice in Charlotte’s hair, because the word on the internet is that modern lice are very difficult to eradicate. They have become resistant to all the treatments that worked back when we were kids. On Wednesday, I combed coconut oil through Charlotte’s hair and put it braids, because I’ve heard that lice don’t like greasy hair. I gave her strict instructions not to share her hat with anyone or to wear anyone else’s hat. I briefly considered whether or not I was overreacting to the threat of lice, but decided that I was not. An overreaction would be what I initially wanted to do upon receiving that notice, which was to shave Charlotte’s head and my head in order to prevent an infestation.

    Sporting the greasy locks, lice-repelling (hopefully) look

    Sporting the greasy locks, lice-repelling (hopefully) look

We are coming up to report card time, after which we will have an interview with the teacher to discuss how Charlotte is doing in class, and I’m not too worried about it. I mean, it’s junior kindergarten- what is there to say? As long as she’s not trying to set the classroom on fire or eating glue (and I hope that we would have already been notified about such troubling behaviour), then I’d say she’s doing just fine. Although, maybe her painting skills could use a little work- what do you think?

Is it just me, or do I look like a mailbox here?

This is titled, “My Mommy.” Now, is it just me, or do I look like a mailbox here?

Ok. the colours are reminiscent of a corn farm, but that's really the best I can say about this painting

Ok. the colours ARE reminiscent of a corn farm, but that’s really the best I can say about this painting

I'm sorry, but this in no way resembles a mitten. If I squint, I can see a baby stroller or a chicken

I’m sorry, but this in no way resembles a mitten. If I squint, I can see a baby stroller or maybe a chicken.

A little side note here- if you haven’t already done so, be sure to like my Facebook page so that you can be sure to never miss a post! You can find the page here. Thanks, and have a great weekend!

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A Fortuitous Mix-Up

On Monday, I had plans to go out for dinner. I made arrangements with Mark so that I could leave about 4:15pm and he would be home with the girls. After picking Charlotte up from school and getting Penelope’s feed going, I was rushing around, trying to get ready to leave. Around 4pm, just as I was struggling to get my shirt over my head, the doorbell rang. I fought my way through the shirt, nearly ripping it in the process, cursing whoever it was interrupting me. I threw open the door, and there was Alice, Penelope’s physiotherapist. My heart sank to the ground.

I was fairly certain that I had told Alice that Monday was not good for a therapy session, and I repeated it to her again as she made her way into the house. She wasn’t hearing it, though and was completely unconcerned that I was on my way out the door. “Well, I’m here now, and I will just have to do it with Daddy instead.”

This was not good. As I have written about before, Penelope does not enjoy these physiotherapy sessions. She screams and cries throughout them, and it is nearly impossible for Alice to get Penelope to do any of the prescribed exercises. I find these sessions extremely stressful, and I dread them. I briefly considered cancelling my plans so that Mark wouldn’t have to experience the hell that is physio with Alice and Penelope, but it was far too late to bail on my friends. I had to leave, and Mark would have to deal with it.

I felt ill as I left the house. I was certain that the physio would not go well, and that Mark would be upset that I had just dumped it in his lap and went out for the evening. I waited anxiously for the inevitable text, asking me how to get Penelope to calm down. It didn’t come. So I decided to test the waters and texted him, offering some advice for how to get Penelope settled after one of these horrible therapy visits. This is our exchange:

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I was shocked and intensely relieved. I was able to enjoy my dinner at Wahlburger’s, though I didn’t get to meet Donnie or Mark. (Actually, it’s probably a good thing that they weren’t there, because if Donnie was there, then his wretched wife, Jenny McCarthy might be with him, and I don’t know that I could restrain myself from punching her in the face for all of the anti-vaccine propaganda she has spread for years). So yeah, everything really worked out for the best.

When I got home, Mark reiterated that the session had gone really well. Both he and Alice were very impressed with how great Penelope did. In fact, Mark has now volunteered to do all these physio sessions with her, and I couldn’t be happier- Penelope is finally getting some benefit out of this, and I no longer have to deal with the tears and the stress. This little misunderstanding really worked out in my favour- about damn time, am I right?

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January

Oh, January. It is by far my least favourite month. Most years, January and I are not friends. It is cold and grey and dismal and cold and depressing and cold and there’s the post-holiday letdown to deal with and did I mention that it’s cold? The past few years in particular I have found January to be especially difficult, for all these reasons and more. This year, though, things are different. It’s January, and I actually feel…happy.

It is a strange sensation for me to feel happy in January. Ok, yes, there was a little blip in my mood last week, but that is behind me now. Some days, I get lost in thought, thinking about how well things are going at the moment and about how content I am feeling and then I look at the calendar and can’t believe that I am feeling this way in January. I have attributed my elevated mood to several factors:

1. The back-to-work transition has gone really well. I was very worried about how it would all work out, and it actually couldn’t have gone better. Penelope is happy with our nanny, Mark is dealing with the morning chaos like a champ, and I love being back at work. My part-time position is providing me with a great balance of feeling fulfilled with my career and still enabling me to stay on top of things around the house. I am lucky to have a job that I love, and the support I have received from my coworkers has been incredible.

2. The weather this January has been tolerable. Yes, there have been some very cold days, but there have been warmer days mixed in there. We recently had a thaw, so although it’s cold, there isn’t even much snow or ice here at the moment. This means that I don’t have to worry about trying to finagle the stroller through mounds of snow and ice, which is not an easy feat. Last year was terrible- the sidewalks were so treacherous, even the short walk to drop Charlotte off at preschool was a complicated endeavour.

3. My healthy lifestyle initiative has given me more energy and boosted my self-esteem. I can now fit into clothes that I haven’t been able to wear in years. I have improved my tolerance for high-intensity cardio activities and it feels great to go to a class like Body Attack and be able to keep up with the instructor. This is the longest I have kept up with a fitness regime and I’m proud of the way I have been able to fit this into my busy life.

These three factors add up to something which I haven’t experienced in some time: freedom. I am no longer Penelope’s main care provider. Mark, our nanny, and my in-laws are all very involved in her care now, and I can spend time outside the house without worrying. I am enjoying returning to my role as a nurse- I mean, I have a job where the dress code is basically pajamas and running shoes. It is THE BEST! The nice(er) weather means that I can go outside with the girls fairly easily, and we don’t have to spend days cooped up in the house. And my improved level of fitness has freed me from the feelings of shame and guilt that plagued me before I started trying to get healthy.

Hanging out with Penelope after work

Hanging out with Penelope after work

So right now, I am feeling free and happy and I’m going to enjoy it. I don’t know what is around the corner, but that’s okay. Good or bad, I am able to handle it. And anyway, it won’t be long til it’s spring, and who can’t be happy about that?

How can I not be happy right now?

How can I not be happy right now?

Happy Girl

Well, I have to say, I am feeling a lot better about Penelope’s future with special education. I mean, I’m still not loving the idea of her and Charlotte going to separate schools, but I know that we will find the best solution to fit Penelope’s needs. And I am shelving my anxieties about Penelope’s future in general, because the thing is, she’s happy. Like, really, really happy almost all the time. And that’s all that really matters to me. I want her to be happy. And she is. So why I am stressing out about things that I mostly have no control over and are literally years away from happening? I’m just going to enjoy her for who she is- and she is wonderful.

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Happy baby, happy mommy

Happy baby, happy mommy

Reflection

Since posting yesterday about the unsettling discovery I made about Penelope’s schooling, I have had some time to think about things. Learning that Penelope will not be able to go to the same school as Charlotte has really upset me. I feel almost as sad as I did the day we learned of her diagnosis. In mere moments, the vision I had of Charlotte looking out for her little sister at school; of dropping them off and picking them up together; of watching the two of them in concerts; of knowing that Penelope would feel safer and more comfortable in an unfamiliar environment with the knowledge that she is in the same building as her sister; of Penelope being integrated with her peers- all of that has evaporated. And I am still reeling from the shock.

It just doesn’t seem fair. How can the school board ask this of families? To separate siblings; to make one feel excluded and inferior? I would like to find the person responsible for this policy and ask them how they would feel if it was their child who was being treated this way.

I think another reason why I am so upset about this is the fact that it is forcing me to consider Penelope’s future. I can keep my positive attitude pretty easily when I am focused on the present. I can handle the day-to-day challenges with relative ease. I can revel in the progress she makes. But when I have to look at the big picture and think about what the future holds for my sweet baby, I get scared and sad.

The reality is that she is significantly delayed. And although she has made a lot of great progress- progress I am extremely proud of and happy about- that gap between her chronological age and her developmental age is widening. I have to wonder about whether or not she will ever be able to live independently. Will she be able to have relationships and form friendships? Will she ever be able to have a job or receive any higher education? And I grieve to think these basic things which many people take for granted may be out of her reach.

I find myself in mourning yet again. Somehow, some way, I know will find my positive attitude again. But for right now, I feel sad. And that is a difficult admission for me to make. I am an optimist at heart. I always try to find the positives in difficult situations. It’s hard for me to admit that I am struggling to do that today. I think this discovery has knocked me a bit off balance, and I hope that in a day or two, I will find my footing again, and I will be able to reassure myself everything will be okay.

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A Shock to the System

I love Facebook. Out of all the social media platforms out, it is by far my favourite. I love being able to stay in touch with old friends and with family members who live far away. I love seeing their photos and status updates and I love reading the comments on the things I post. Okay, yes, I could do without the barrage of Candy Crush invites, but other than that, I thoroughly enjoy my time spent on Facebook. Once in awhile, though, Facebook can be the bearer of bad news.

I belong to a few groups that are neighbourhood- and parent-specific. Last night, in one of these groups, a mom posted a question, asking if anyone else in the group had experience dealing with special ed at the TDSB. Apparently, when she called her home school to inquire about their special ed program for her developmentally delayed child, she was told that they did not have a special ed program, and that her child would have to go to an out-of-district school, which meant that her two children would have to attend different schools. I was shocked to read this. I could not believe that it was true. Almost immediately, I asked Mark about it, thinking he would reassure me and tell me that is something that wouldn’t happen, but he confirmed it. Not all schools have special education programs in place, and in all likelihood, Penelope will have to go to a different school than Charlotte.

To say that I am saddened by this news would be an understatement. I am devastated and heartbroken. I am fully prepared for the fact that Penelope will certainly need to attend a special ed program, but I just assumed that our home school would make the necessary accommodations for her. I never, even for a moment, had considered the possibility that she would not be able to go to the same school as her sister. I had this vision in my head of Charlotte being able to look out for Penelope at school, the way she does at home. Penelope adores her big sister, and it makes me so sad to think that they will be at separate schools. It astounds me that the TDSB doesn’t have “equality of access” or some other such phrase as part of their charter.

I mean, sure, I could throw a fit and probably cause enough of a fuss over the next 2 or 3 years to force our home school to accommodate her, but I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to force the school to accept her. I want Penelope to go to a school that will welcome her and include her and provide her with the best care and most suitable education. I just can’t believe that in Canada, in Toronto, that’s not available at every school.

I suppose that I am just going to have to make my peace with this information, though at this point, I am a long way from accepting it. I shed a lot of tears last night after finding this out, and I’d hoped that upon waking up this morning, I would feel better about it. I don’t. Right now, I feel sad and defeated. And I don’t know how to feel better about this yet.

Thinking of these sisters having to go to separate schools breaks my heart

Thinking of these sisters having to go to separate schools breaks my heart

Jokes

A couple of days ago, my aunt Barbara texted me with a joke she wanted me to tell Charlotte: Where does a snowman keep his money? In a snow bank! Charlotte thought this was HILARIOUS, though I’m not quite sure she fully got the joke. And ever since, she has been bombarding us with “jokes” of her own:

Where does the snowman keep his head? In the snowman bank!

Where does the hat go to bed? In the chair-head! (No idea)

Where does the snowman put his toys? In the fridger! (Again, no idea, but she was looking at the fridge when she said it, so I’m guessing that’s what she was going for).

Now, it is pretty funny to listen to these “jokes” she comes up with, mostly because of her expression and her laughter as she is telling them. The truth is, though, that these jokes are painfully unfunny and don’t make any sense at all. What’s worse is that she now demands that I tell her funny jokes, and after I tell the one joke I can remember from my childhood (What is a ghost’s favourite fruit? Boo-berries!), I’m out of material, and so I start telling “jokes” that don’t make any sense, either.

Where does the streetcar go to bed? At the bus station!

Where does the baby get the snow? From the snow station!

Terrible, right? But it’s like I’m having an out of body experience, and I just string together the random objects I have in my sight line to form a question and answer. I seriously cannot perform under the pressure. “Tell me a funny joke! Now, Mommy!” She does laugh hysterically at whatever I say, so at least she hasn’t realized just how unfunny her mom is yet.

So please help me- I need some jokes to stash in my mind that I can pull out whenever she asks me. Share any jokes you have that would amuse a four year old. This unfunny mummy would really appreciate it.

Charlotte laughing after she heard the snowman joke

Charlotte laughing after she heard the snowman joke