Category Archives: The Girl

Farewell Santa

We will not be doing a Santa picture this year, because Owlet is dead set against it. Sparky is old enough to not need one, and I suspect he was humouring his sister these past couple of years. We were going to take this kids this morning and bring them to school afterward, but Owlet freaked out. It took a lot of negotiating, and even then she was trying to get us to agree to just have Sparky in the photo. We said we’d revisit it in the morning… and when we woke up it was -23 C before windchill, and the Santa we visit has an outdoor waiting line.

So executive decision: no, we were not going to wait outside with a whiny child who wanted to be anywhere but with Santa, because we are working really hard to limit stress for everybody. And then Owlet moped around the house, because she said she wanted to see Santa.

ANYWAY.

So that’s that. It looks like the Santa pictures are done for our family. In retrospect, I shouldn’t be surprised; last year she only agreed to do the photo if she could sit on a stool at Santa’s feet (which we were fine with, and offered this as an option this year as well), and in 2014 she said she didn’t want to see Santa, she wanted to just go have tea at DavidsTea, which was the treat I’d promised them for after we’d seen Santa.

Owlet told us last night that the boys in her class said Santa wasn’t real. Of course he is, we said. But he’s real in the way that he symbolizes the spirit of generosity, love, and sharing. That’s why there are so many Santas out there and they all look different. Her eyes got very round as she processed this. We’ve never tried to perpetuate the ‘Santa is a real person at the North Pole’ story, but we do have to address it every year. Which isn’t surprising; eleven and a half months is a long time to go between encountering the concept again.

So in place of a new photo of Santa with the kids, please enjoy this revisiting of pictures from the past five Christmases.

Ballet

The fall season of extracurricular activities has just begun. Sparky casually mentioned he’d like to maybe try guitar, so we looked into that, but we just couldn’t afford it right now. He’s happy to continue with his art classes.

Owlet has been waiting to turn five, because now she is old enough to register for ballet at the arts centre where she previously did art and intro to music. She and her friend Audrey have both registered, and we took them to buy their ballet shoes a week and a half ago. Owlet is extremely thrilled with them and wears them any time she remembers they exist… like when it’s time to climb into bed for bedtime stories.

The first day was exciting. She naturally wanted to wear a dress, but I managed to get her to agree to wear black leggings and a tunic shirt instead. There are fifteen kids in the class (fifteen!) and the teacher is terrific with them. Her choice of music is admirable, too; the way to get me to appreciate your commitment to teaching is to have both a track from Michael Nyman’s score for The Piano and a prelude from a Bach solo cello suite playing in the first ten minutes. (Also, wow; you can make a playlist on a phone or mp3 player and just plug it into an amplifier in this day and age. When I took ballet classes, there was a live accompanist, because it was that or a portable record player.)

So far, so good. There was a hesitation halfway through the class when she didn’t want to keep going, but after watching the other girls learn how to do “cat jumps” she threw herself back in with enthusiasm, because who doesn’t want to learn how to jump like a cat, right? And we committed the faux pas of not bringing water bottles with which the girls could hydrate at half time, the way all the other girls (who had obviously all done this before) had done. A note has been made for next time.

Sparky came home from his first art class that afternoon with spots of paint all over him, so that’s going as well as it usually does!

Cottaging

Things have been pretty stressful around here for a variety of reasons. So when our friends Megan and Jason invited us to spend a day at their family cottage an hour north of the city, we said yes.

It was one of those transitional days we get at the end of summer, where the sun is shining but there’s a breeze and a chill to the air, especially outside the city. It was the kind of weather where you’re happy to be able to pull out a sweater.

I got about an inch knit on my sweater for Rhinebeck. The kids tromped around and found sticks, poked them into the water, pretended to fish, and played happily in the sand pit. The adults managed to play a game of Settlers of Catan without being significantly interrupted, which was a major achievement. And at the end of the day, a small fire was built and we taught the kids how to roast marshmallows.

It was a wonderful day, and we all really needed it.

Rites of Passage, Including Kindergarten and Grade Six

Rites of passage are something that I consider important. Not big splashy ones; just marking milestones. And there have been a few of them lately, this last week of August and the first weekend of September.

Owlet had her intro to kindergarten the last week of August. On Tuesday we went in for an hour-long session in her class, listening to her teacher talk through the structure, the subjects, and the schedule. After that there was a barbecue in the schoolyard, which she partly like because of hot dogs and being able to play with her friends for daycare who had also advanced to kindergarten, and partly disliked because the music was too loud. The next day she went in with half the class for a morning of kindergarten. Despite being told over and over, she didn’t fully understand that I wasn’t coming in with her again for that session, and there were almost tears; she and her buddy from daycare held hands for support as they followed the teacher inside. Then she had a day off, and then Friday was her first official full day of school. Again tears threatened, but her teacher introduced her to another girl in the schoolyard while I slipped away. At the end of the day the teacher brought out the non-bus and non-daycare kids, but Owlet wasn’t among them, even though she had been when they left the classroom. It turned out that she had split off from the group to follow a new friend to the daycare programme; her teacher found her sitting with the daycare kids, happily munching a daycare granola bar.

Her daycare educator e-mailed to see how the first days had gone, and I was glad to be able to tell her that things were fine. Owlet finally gets to use her Star Wars lunchbox, and get a juice box in it — a treat that was withheld from her until she started kindergarten. She is excited about the great playground equipment (restricted to the younger grades), about learning computers (two in her classroom, an entire computer lab next door), having new markers and coloured pencils. She coloured a picture for her new teacher on Friday morning, hugged her leg before leaving on Friday afternoon, and has been practicing her teacher’s name and saying “bonjour” and “au revoir” (the latter with a truly adorable rolled ‘r’). The one thing I’m not thrilled about is the fact that she’s in the only kindergarten class in the basement; the three others are on the main floor with large windows. But her teacher has made it colourful, and the music room is right across the hall. She hasn’t said anything specific about being frustrated or sad about not understanding what her teacher says — she is very good at using gestures to illustrate what she is saying, and I’m certain it will only take a couple of weeks before Owlet starts nattering in French.

Sparky’s first day was a breeze. The schoolyard was packed with hundreds of kids and parents looking for their class lists, saying hello after the summer, and generally goofing around. Once he found his friends, there was no point to me staying, so Owlet and I walked to the park behind the schoolyard and hung out there until the classes started being called inside. The grade sixes were last, of course, and the teachers gathered all four grade six classes on the field to take mass photos before they went in. They’re the top of the heap this year, the last before high school. The night before the school held an info session for parents, and I got to meet his teachers and hear about their policies, their units of inquiry, and the planned field trips. There’s a lot of science and focus on renewable energy, which is going to be exciting for Sparky. Math will be focusing on stabilizing and reviewing the material they’ve already learned, much to my relief. He’ll have a new math resource teacher, as his past one (who, incidentally, has also been his math tutor this past summer) has her own class in another school this year. His homeroom teacher happens to be the same teacher who taught him French In kindergarten at his first school, which he finds amusing.

The day before school started, we went out to brunch, which is a nice new tradition, I think. Megan and Audrey came with us, as Audrey was starting kindergarten the same day Owlet did.

The other recent rite of passage was baby Ivy’s blessing. HRH and I were honoured to be asked to lead the ritual by Ivy’s parents, who are friends of ours. It was the first real ritual Owlet had observed; she had been very interested in the whole idea of a baby blessing leading up to the event. (What is a blessing? Why do we ask the gods to protect her? Will the gods sit or stand? If they’re not there, will the gods hear us even if we don’t shout?) The wish Sparky made for the baby was for a long life, and Owlet (even though she hid behind me and was too shy to say it) had prepared a wish that the baby always feel comfortable enough to be herself. (I said it for her. It was a really good wish, and I was very proud of her for coming up with it.)

Of all the formal rites of passage I am privileged to perform for my spiritual community, baby blessings are my favourite. I only wish we’d been in a better state to stay afterwards and enjoy food, drink, and company, but I was exhausted and rapidly going downhill (fibro has been particularly difficult lately), Sparky was fighting a cold, and Owlet was having that kind of weekend where she needed to get home to have a quiet supper and regular bedtime.

It’s been a busy week.

Owlet: 59 Months!

Crazy full-time work project happened, other writing died. Sigh. This week I want to go back and at least put together a picture post or two for April and May.

This morning I was buckling Owlet into her car seat, and she said, “Oh no, Mummy, I forgot to make my bed! I’m sorry. I’ll do it as soon as I get home, I promise.” I blinked, and said, “Okay, thanks, honey,” wondering why it had come up. She usually doesn’t remember to do it (or rather, someone else gets there first), but today, for some reason, she remembered an hour after she got up, after she had left the house. And then promised she’d do it later. I’ll be interested to see if she does remember.

I haven’t been noting down the amusing or interesting things she’s been doing. On one hand I gave myself permission to forget (I only have so much brain), but on the other… the idea with both kids was to keep track of the little things because it all changes so subtly over time.

She’s so much better in the pool and with water in general this summer. She got a pair of goggles along with some outgrown swimwear from the Preston-Leblancs, and she puts them on, holds her breath, and bends over to stick her face in the water. “Did you see me? Did I disappear?” she says breathlessly when she stands up again. She and Sparky play like otters in the tiny pool, making the most of the space they have. And she is okay with sprinklers this year, too, which is new!

Music class ended at the beginning of June. She hasn’t shown particular interest in anything she played, but it has taught her to be enthusiastic about any instrument she meets, reaching for with while exclaiming, “Can I try it?” Which is good, I guess. (Sparky is taking violin for two weeks this summer at camp, and he is showing us what he learns every day on our adult-sized viola at home. I may need to add a violin to the bash-about instruments on hand, because Owlet wants to do it too, and the viola is what she uses as a cello, so holding it on her shoulder is really not possible.) She’s determined to do ballet this fall, and she’ll be old enough for the 5+ age group, so that’s a go. And next summer she can go to Sparky’s day camp as well, albeit in the junior division.

She currently very into Mia & Me, which I am fine with because it isn’t a heavily licensed show, thank goodness. Speaking of licensing, she got her first Lego set this month and spent an hour and a half putting it together; Lego is now on her birthday list. (Here we go.)

She plays with Sparky more intricately all the time (he is sucking her into Pokemon, which is problematic only in that Pokemon asks the player to read a lot, and she’s not there yet), and it’s great to listen to them playing. They do get frustrated with each other when someone doesn’t follow the script inside someone else’s head, and there are times when I have to separate them. But in general? They’re great together, and I’m so thankful for that.

Everyone is still very into Hamilton, and the two of them can go through entire songs trading lines back and forth.

Big news this past month was going to the cinema for her first movie on the big screen! We saw Finding Dory, and it was a terrific experience. We taught her how to stay to the end of the credits in case there was a post-credit sequence and were rewarded. Then she turned to me and her face crumpled, and she said, “But it was special, and I don’t want it to be over!” I cuddled her and promised we could go see other movies because she was old enough now; she just cried and said, “But what if I don’t like them? I liked this movie!”

There will be other movies, and they will be as enjoyable. Promise.

And now we’re into a thirty-one day countdown to five years old. It doesn’t seem possible, does it?

Kindergarten Prep

Today was our school’s Teddy Bear Picnic, the orientation session for soon-to-be kindergartners and their parents! Owlet is super excited; she was already excited going in, but when I picked her up from the kindergarten room afterward, she was even more excited, because: “Mummy, they have a dollhouse! And Lego! And we did ART!”

The one thing she’s not thrilled about is learning French. “I already KNOW language,” she said. You can’t really argue with that logic. Sparky had similar resistance, so I know it will all turn out fine. In fact, Sparky gave her a pep talk this morning about how awesome it is to learn a second language — except he did it in French. It made sense to him to do it that way, and it was a terrific gesture, but it was mostly lost on Owlet, who was annoyed that he wasn’t speaking to her in “language.” Although she has independently asked how to say certain things in French the past few days — hello, goodbye, my name is — so there is hope.

Owlet: 55 Months!


… or the March 4 post covering February 2016. I’m less than a week late! Woohoo!

The enthusiasm for Star Wars continues. One day I did her hair in the three bunches Rey has, and she was thrilled. Then she found a stick, and said, “Rey has a stick. I have a stick, too!”

I was excited to show the kids the new Finding Dory trailer, because Finding Nemo is one of our favourites, and we’re planning for Finding Dory to be the first film Owlet sees in the theatre this summer. She was so thrilled about the trailer and the plan that she started telling everyone at school that she had been to a movie theatre, and was going to go after school, and… right. This is an excellent example of the kind of magical thinking she engages in. Her educator usually checks with me at the end of the day to confirm various facts, because Owlet’s make-believes are so detailed and sincere that it’s hard to separate what’s imagined and what’s fact.

Also, she says “movie heater” instead of “movie theatre,” and while it is utterly adorable, we suggested we call it the “cinema” instead, which she readily accepted. It’s much easier for her to say.

The kids both saved up their money and they each bought a new playset for Disney Infinity this past month. Sparky bought the Rise Against the Empire set with Luke and Leia, and Owlet bought the Inside Out set with Joy and Anger. (I love that my kids are willing to buy toys that they intend to share and can both play with.) She was so excited to put her money in a little wallet, find the playset in the store, and carry the bag after buying it. This is the second thing she has bought with her own money (the first was a Periwinkle doll from the Disney Fairies line) and it’s been interesting talking to her about how to save money and consider what to spend it on. There have been serious discussions about how yes, she could take the money she currently has and buy X, but she was saving that money to buy Y, and if she spends what’s currently there then she has to start all over again if she still intends to purchase Y.

Her colouring majorly leveled up this past month — her colour choices, control over colouring specific small regions and staying inside lines has suddenly improved. Drawing has also leapt up a level; wow, her flowers and people! (I can’t find any of her recent people, unfortunately; I think she gave them all away.) More adding landscape and/or environment to the basic picture: those are fish all along the bottom of the water fairy’s picture on the left and bubbles around her, and flowers around the garden fairy on the right. She drew frames around them both.

This month’s music classes introduced the recorder, the clarinet, and the transverse flute.


And during the last one, the flute class, she actually paid attention. Sort of. At least she didn’t whine and try to climb all over me.

The children have a new musical obsession. Ceri bought me the Hamilton cast album, and that has mostly replaced Hunchback as what they ask to listen to in the car. Owlet says, “Can we listen to the one where they say, ‘What’s your name, man?’“) and wanders around the house chirping, “Alexander Hamilton… my name is Alexander Hamilton…” to herself.

I cut Owlet’s hair again a couple of weeks ago, and I cut off more than I intended. She likes wearing it loose and down, and it was getting in the way everywhere, so I told her she needed to start agreeing to having it pinned back or we could trim it. She immediately chose the cut. We discussed how much to trim; she wanted it shorter, just above her shoulders, but I wanted to be sure there was still enough length to do the Elsa braids she asks for periodically. So I put it in a ponytail and misjudged where to cut. Stupid rookie mistake. Anyway, it’s shoulder length, and the curls are already bouncier (although not as bouncy as they were when they were originally that length), and it’s exactly where she wanted it. I’d cut three inches off just before Christmas because the ends were getting scraggly; that was her first real haircut other than bangs. This was another two and a half inches gone. Eek. It just feels cumulatively drastic.

And then she didn’t want me to take a picture, or to go to school the next morning, because she was afraid people would laugh at her because we cut her hair. I can’t even. How can this start so young?

Storytime! Sparky has started to read the Geronimo Stilton and the Kingdom of Fantasy series to Owlet. It’s hard to get them both wanting to do it at the same time; Owlet often asks and Sparky says no because he’s not in the mood, but when it happens it’s terrific. (Psst, this is the new haircut, too.)

We finished On the Banks of Plum Creek and began By the Shores of Silver Lake. It was hard for Owlet to wrap her head around the idea that four or five years had passed, Mary had gone blind in the interim, and there was a new baby. (More than that actually happened during that gap; the Ingalls family moved a couple of times, and there was a son born who died at the age of nine months.) We tried starting Anne of Green Gables, but it’s a bit wordy for her, so we switched to Winnie-the-Pooh.

Owlet’s educator told me something a couple of weeks ago that I have to share. The kids are all currently into pretending people are in trouble and swooping in to save them. The gym set is the safe zone, and the mats under it are the water they’re in, or the quicksand, or whatever. Well, one of the kids found Owlet on the gym set and said, “You can’t be here, no one saved you!”

“I rescued myself,” Owlet said. (I can just imagine the unimpressed look she gave the kid over the top of her glasses as she said it, too.)