A New Season

We are now several days into the official start of fall, and I suppose it is time to say farewell to summer. This summer was a good one- one of the best in recent memory. We spent a lot of time outside, the weather was sunny and warm, and we even got in a little cottage getaway at the end of August. It was very nearly perfect, and I am sure that as time goes on, the memory of hearing, “What are we going to do now, Mama?” fifty times a day will fade and I will remember this summer only as a happy, blissful time in our lives.

Some highlights:

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And now here we are, nearing the end of September. We have entered into a new season. Charlotte is in French Immersion now; in a class that doesn’t include her nearly lifelong partner in crime, Vera. These two changes combined made me very nervous about the new school year. Unsurprisingly though, these changes were probably harder on me than on Charlotte. She is now spouting French phrases around the house (“Regardez moi!”) and she still plays with Vera every day before school and during their outdoor play times.

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This is a new season for Penelope, too. She is now attending a home daycare with the most lovely caregiver I could have ever hoped for. She has adjusted to this change beautifully. Penelope has two new playmates in the toddlers that attend this daycare, and she adores it. I love the fact that she is out in the world, with her peers, and enjoying herself. She has made so much progress recently- she seems to be understanding phrases and directions and she is pointing and communicating more. She still doesn’t have any words yet, but she makes herself known. She pulls to stand easily now, and will cruise for a few steps along furniture. And speaking of steps- she can now crawl up stairs by herself! There is no doubt in my mind that she will walk one day- she is one determined girl.

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Having fun at her caregiver’s house

Anyone who knows me well knows that I do not enjoy change. AT ALL. So all of these changes occurring simultaneously made September a bit of a difficult month to navigate. In addition to the changes, I have been working a lot more- nearly twice as much as I was before- and trying to balance the shift work with family life is exhausting at times. Things are more settled now, though, and I am breathing a bit easier. I would be lying if I said I wasn’t still wary of what the future has in store, but I am trying to focus on the present. Right now, life is good. Everyone is happy and healthy. This new season is a good one so far.

Time to Talk?

From the moment Penelope was born, Charlotte has been a fantastic big sister. She is patient, gentle, and loving with her little sister. She is never jealous or resentful of all the extra attention Penelope has needed. To be honest, I don’t think Charlotte even realizes that there is something different about Penelope. And don’t get me wrong, I think that is wonderful and amazing and a perfect example of how kids are naturally accepting, but I’m starting to wonder if at some point, I should sit down and talk to Charlotte about how Penelope has some special needs.

A happy big sister, right from the beginning

A happy big sister, right from the beginning

This is not something I ever planned on doing- my initial idea on how to address it with Charlotte was just to answer her questions honestly as they came up, but she doesn’t really ask many questions about Penelope. I think Charlotte just thinks that all little sisters have to go to the doctor a lot and have therapy visits and special standers and feeding tubes. And I’m happy that none of that bothers her, but I’m worried that one day, when she realizes that this isn’t the norm, it will come as a big shock to her, and she might be really upset.

I guess I just want to ease her into the knowledge that Penelope is likely going to have a very different path in life compared to her. About a week ago, Charlotte made a comment about how when Penelope is in kindergarten they will be able to play together at school. I probably should have said something then, because Penelope is most likely going to need to attend a different school that will best meet her needs, but I was caught off-guard and I knew I would start to cry if I pursued the subject at that moment. Plus, Penelope is still two years away from going to school. And yet, I don’t know if I should wait two years to talk to Charlotte about it. She seems to have a vision of her and Penelope’s future together- running around at school, playing together. This is not unlike the vision I had of the two of them before Penelope’s diagnosis, and I know how much it hurt when I realized my vision would have to change. I want to spare Charlotte that pain.

This is totally uncharted territory for me. When I became a parent, I knew that there would be uncomfortable conversations with my kids one day, but there are tons of resources to help you talk to your kids about stuff like sex. Talking to your child about her sister’s special needs? Not so much.

What would you do? I know this isn’t something that needs to be dealt with urgently, but it has been rattling around in my head lately, and it would be nice to come up with some sort of plan on how to address this. For now, I think I will continue to take my cues from Charlotte, and answer any questions she may ask.  I just hope I am taking the right approach.

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Summer Break

It is officially summer, and with it comes a few changes in our daily routine. Charlotte will be finished with junior kindergarten as of Thursday (sob) and I will be tasked with filling her days for two long months. She is really going to miss school (and so will I). I love the structure that school gives to our days. Charlotte loves just about everything to do with school- seeing her friends, learning new words and concepts, eating her lunchtime bagel in her classroom with Miss Lisa, pizza days, assemblies, singing songs, and playing. Somehow I will have to find a substitute for school to keep her occupied. This is a daunting prospect to say the least.

Almost done with JK

Almost done with JK

Charlotte is not the only one whose daily routine is changing- Mark will be working from home all summer, teaching summer school online. So basically, the peaceful and relaxing days that Penelope and I spend together are on hiatus until September. I know I will have to endure a lot of the following: “What are we going to do today?” (Mark). “How many bedtimes until senior kindergarten?” (Charlotte. And me.) I think my best bet to survive the summer with my sanity intact is planning- days at the zoo, beach, visiting family, playdates, etc. Both the girls and I need structure to our days, and I want to enjoy the summer instead of just counting down the days until September.

Oh god, how am I going to keep these two entertained all summer long?!

Oh god, how am I going to keep these two entertained all summer long?!

How do you keep your kids occupied and happy during summer break? Please give me all your tips and tricks!

Five

Charlotte, today you are five. I don’t know where the time has gone. It seemed like only a minute ago, you were a teeny little baby:

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and now here you are:

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My beautiful girl. You are so much more than simply beautiful, though. If I had to pick one word to describe you today, it would be sweet. You positively ooze kindness and love. You give me more kisses every day than I could possibly count. Sometimes, you get up from the dinner table because you just have to give Penelope hugs and kisses, and you say, “Oooh, I just love you so much, sisty! I just can’t stop loving you!!” And it makes my heart melt every time. You are just the best big sister ever. You are so patient and gentle with your little sister- you have never once shown any resentment towards your sibling who requires so much attention; attention that is diverted from you. Somehow, at your young age, you understand and accept Penelope’s needs effortlessly. You have taught me a lot about the power of unconditional love.

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There is more to you than sweetness, though. You are my multi-faceted girl. You love dresses and T-ball, and combine the two with ease:

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You are smart and creative. You have been teaching me all about how the caterpillar makes a chrysallis and emerges as a butterfly. You recently drew this lovely picture…of me in the shower:

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You are independent and determined:

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It wasn’t long ago that you had to be rescued from this bouncy castle because you couldn’t maneuver your way through it, and now you can do it with ease.

You love flowers and enjoy examining all the insects and worms you come across in the garden:

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You are, quite simply, Charlotte. I am so lucky to have you as my daughter. I love you more than I could ever possibly express. Happy birthday, my darling.

Love, Mommy

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Party Planning

In less than a month, my baby girl, Charlotte, will be FIVE years old (sob). She has been looking forward to her birthday since, well, the day after her party last year. I have endured nearly a year of “How many more sleeps til my birthday, Mommy?” Soon, that momentous day will finally be here, and as such, I have begun the party planning.

The first lesson I have learned through this process is that she is not really old enough, or perhaps just not decisive enough, to make many decisions about her party. She has told me she wants to do gymnastics, dancing, baseball, karate, soccer, playing in the snow, and music at her party. Ummm, okay- soccer it is! No thanks to her input.

And then there is the matter of her cake- she has told me she wants a butterfly, Frozen, a Peppa cake like last year, flowers, Elsa, a rainbow, and chocolate. So, right now I’m thinking it will be a chocolate-flavoured, Frozen-themed cake. How hard can that be? Okay, you can stop laughing now.

Now that she’s in school, trying to figure out the guest list has been difficult, to say the least. Many of the kids she talks about I know by first name only, and I only know a handful of the parents of the kids in her class. We did finally, agonizingly, get the list sorted out, and she and I made the invitations last night. She did surprisingly well at writing out names and only required a couple of “practice” envelopes. The next feat will be ensuring that said invitations actually get delivered to their intended recipients- a task I’m not quite sure how to handle. I love Charlotte, but there is NO WAY she will be able to deliver all the invitations to the right people on her own. I’m hoping her teacher or the EA will be able to put them in the kid’s backpacks (as if they don’t have enough to do in a day).

So that’s where things stand in the party planning process. I have to admit I have been scouring Pinterest for Frozen-themed party ideas, and the ambitious part of me says, “Sure, I can absolutely make blue-ombre Rice Krispie squares and melted Olafs and blue cake pops and white chocolate snowflakes!” And the realistic part of me can’t stop laughing long enough to form a response to that notion.

The soon-to-be birthday girl, keepin' it real in her Peppa pjs!

The soon-to-be birthday girl, keepin’ it real in her Peppa pjs!

Kids and Couches

Last week, my sister texted me this photo:

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Apparently, the older girls “couldn’t find any paper” and chose the leather chair in the living room as the next best medium to express their artistry. I have to admit, I had a pretty good laugh over this. And then, the very next day, I got served a big ol’ steaming plate of karma when Mark walked into our living room and discovered this on our microfibre couch:

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Suddenly, kids drawing on living room furniture was no longer quite as amusing. Sigh. Charlotte was very contrite when confronted about her “artwork” though she couldn’t offer an explanation as to why she did it, other than “I just wanted to.”

Thankfully, a quick Google search told me how to remove the offending marks- gently apply rubbing alcohol to the stains. It worked, though it took quite a bit of time and rubbing alcohol to get rid of it. What on earth did people do before Google? Look through back issues of Good Housekeeping at the library until you found a relevant article on stain removal? My god, I would rather buy a new couch than do that.

Anyhow, as Pa would say, “Alls well that end well.” The marker and ink stains are gone from the couch and I’m pretty sure Charlotte won’t be drawing on anything other than paper for the forseeable future.