Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Beginning and an End

In the summer of 2010, we started having issues with the nanny we'd had for over a year. Amelia had grown big enough to start telling us about the nanny working on her computer and her phone all day. She'd started crying when I left for work in the morning and began having frequent potty accidents months after being trained to use the toilet. I actually blamed myself for these issues, thinking I was working too much and not home enough. We'd started looking for a new caregiver, but planned on keeping Ashley until we could find someone else. We didn't think Amelia was in any danger and we wanted to make a sound decision on our terms about the next step. We were mostly annoyed by the laziness and selfishness of the nanny, Ashley.  Anyway to make a long story short, two weeks after the fall semester started, Ashley quit. Like in the morning as I was leaving for work. And in her all-arrogant non-brilliance, announced as her reason for leaving "This isn't working out." Yeah. Duh. (And yeah, it still pissed me off to this day.)

So there I was, already entrenched in the new school year and with no wiggle room in my schedule--or capacity for stress. I pretty much wrote about all this in a previous blog here

In any case, I spent the day on the phone trying to figure out the next step and mostly just panicking. On my way home on the day Ashley quit, I spotted a sign for a school right next to the college where I work and pulled in. Literally on a crazy whim. I told Justin I'd call him back, that I'd thought I'd just stop in and ask a couple questions. It seemed like a good place to at least start since it was in my path of travel on that panicked afternoon. There are two preschools on this site and I didn't even know what the difference was. I walked into one and they directed me to the other little house/school. When I walked in, it was dark and quiet as the children were napping. The sweet teacher (who is now a good friend and soul sister of mine), asked me what I was looking for in a school. I had no idea. She introduced me to the school's owner, who put on the sales pitch pretty heavily. I half listened, unable to think. As she spoke, I thought of a question here and there, and mostly just looked around. 

When I went home for the weekend that night, it was the only lead I had. I didn't even know of other schools or what area we would even look at for potential schools. Over the weekend, we talked a lot about this school I'd checked out and compared it to the things we most wanted for Amelia. It appeared to match up. We assumed this was because we hadn't see any other schools and because we literally didn't know what we were talking about. Because we were dazed and stressed, we figured that this school looked kind of ideal. Amelia was enrolled within a week. I blogged about her first day at the time. It was a rough culmination of a stress-packed couple of weeks. 

Well today was Amelia's last day of preschool. She started that fall right after she turned two.
So little. 

In her three years at preschool, she's become an entirely different child. My sweet, shy, little love has become queen of the playground. When she walks into school, her friends flock to her and throw their arms around her neck. Once too quiet to talk to adults, she now openly gabs with the teachers, sometimes telling them the funniest things ("Today, Amelia told us that her parents are on the bus to Crazy Town and that she's the driver!") and giving them hugs good bye. Once so tiny that her backpack and lunch pail dwarfed her, she now loads and carries them both herself, flinging the car door open to toss them on the front seat before buckling herself into her seat. So capable, independent. She now dresses herself for school and brushes her own hair before trotting out the door. 

She's also become a sister since then--and that's no accident. I credit Amelia's preschool with Annie's existence.  After such a difficult beginning with Amelia, we (okay *I* was) were reluctant/hesitant to even think about another baby. But when she started going to school, it made me realize that things do get easier as they get older. It was the first time since her birth that I had hours alone outside of work. It helped me see myself as an independent being again--just as it made me see her as a more independent person. 

Nowadays, Amelia lets Annie carry the lunch pail into school every morning. It makes Annie feel so grown. 

Although, if I'm being totally honest, this little ritual has recently changed.  For her 5th birthday, she got an awesome superhero lunch pail. . . and doesn't let Sissy carry it anymore. She does, however, show it off in pictures. ha. 

It's really crazy the way I found her little school because we love it. As it turns out, it literally has everything we could have wanted in a school--and lots of things we didn't know we wanted/needed. It's a hippy dippy school where they don't believe in discipline but teaching kids how to handle themselves and their issues instead. They have a focus on Child Development and teach kids independence in a safe, loving environment. At school, Amelia gets to do all the things I cringe over at home--making huge messes playing with corn meal, painting poster-sized art, and creating shaving cream clouds.  

They put this picture on the wall at school, all by itself with a little plaque with Amelia's name. It's still there. 

I guess all I'm really trying to say is that we are so thrilled with Amelia's experience in preschool. She has blossomed, grown, and learned so very much in the care of the beautiful, loving, and kind teachers there. It is through her experience at preschool that she trusts adults and makes friends and looks forward to Kindergarten. And that she can keep a beat, dance in the middle of a circle, and identify her favorite color of apple. 

It is during her time at preschool that Amelia Jane has gone from this 
to this

And here she is today, her LAST day of preschool (which corresponded with a field trip to a Kindergarten class!) 

I can't even believe the transformation of the last three years . . . or what the next three can possibly bring her way. 

And even though all the signs were there, I did not anticipate her last day of preschool to hit me very hard. But of course it did. Like everything else, it seems. I just hope it's exciting for Amelia. I know she's a worrier by nature.  I don't think she quite realizes that she won't be seeing her little peeps anymore because they're all going to different elementary schools. But I do think she's ready for a break from school for a while and a lot of Mommy time. This summer is all about getting ready for the big leagues. 

Other pics from today . . . 

Amelia's lunch, including dolphin-shaped sandwich, cookie, raspberries, Pirate's booty, and fun tag. 

Teacher gifts! Okay, they're not all cookies, but you've got Kahlua bundt cakes, peanut butter chocolate chip bars, magic bars, and oatmeal white chocolate cookies. The adorable tag is a free printable found on this blog. I printed them on full sheet labels, cut, and stuck them on the lids of the containers. It's a drop in the bucket of thanks owed to Amelia's awesome teachers. They are the women who've helped us raise her the last three years--such a crucial part of our village. 

Meanwhile, we had to wake up super early today to get Amelia to school in time for the Kindergarten field trip. Annie was not okay with it. 

She's not a morning baby, turns out. Seriously. She did this when we got home. 

Then we went for a walk on our last day alone for the summer. 

Thank goodness for this little Nugget! It's hard to believe that she'll be old enough to start preschool soon. . . 

Congratulations Amelia! You are onto the next chapter, my sweet love. Heaven knows you rocked yourself some preschool! 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Dear Amelia,

You turned 5 today. You are officially a big girl, school-aged, five. Even though I can hardly believe that you're not a baby sometimes, all I have to do is watch and listen to you just for a few minutes to see how grown you are. Your limbs are long, lean, and ever capable of the climbing, running, and jumping of 5-year-old splendor. Your little face, though still resembling the little baby I remember--the one I see when I close my eyes-- has lost its chubbiness and looks at me with deep intent--and sometimes serious attitude. Your voice, though still tiny, has more authority and purpose than ever, always recounting stories to the last detail, or asking the questions I would never  consider.

You are kind and funny, serious and brilliant. Your ability to forgive and skip along through tough days is both inspiring and bewildering to me. How can you be so serious and so happy at the same time? Your openness with emotions and willingness to feel, really feel your own sadness, exhaustion, and frustration is not only my biggest struggle with you, but also something that I deeply admire in you.

Wouldn't we all move on easier if we could just crumble into a puddle of tears every once in a while?

As I watch you grow, I am increasingly impressed by and proud of you. I enjoy you more than ever, with our morning cuddle sessions, reading chapter books together, or singing in the car. Well, okay, only I sing in the car. You know all the words to your favorite songs, but refuse to sing out loud. I know that you're bubbly and fun and loving and social . . . but that your default is reserved, shy, modest, and careful. I wish you knew how much I can relate--and how much I hope you never try to change or apologize for this part of yourself.

You are breathtakingly beautiful . . . and don't care a single bit. You'd prefer short, easy hair to the long, flowy hair you associate with princesses. You take pride in putting together the funkiest outfits without a concern over conformity or acceptance.

Please don't let anyone change this about you.

Amelia, this year is going to be one of the biggest years of your life. Why? Because you are going to learn to read. You will be able to flip through your stories alone, saying the words instead of making up your own with the pictures. You will be able to pick up a new book and transport yourself into another world with exciting friends and to amazing places . . . and feel unbelievable connection to the pages you flip. I know this will transform you to the core of your existence. You are flowing with the imagination and curiosity and drama and desire of a voracious reader and I am beside myself waiting for you to experience the magic first hand. I know we'll lose you forever after to your books, but that's okay. We'll have so much to talk about too. I can hardly wait to share reading with you.

My favorite moment at your birthday party yesterday was when I looked over at you, surrounded by the chaos of 15 kids and their parents at a splash pool, and you were sitting on the concrete, alone, quietly reading a book from your friend. Totally oblivious to the party, your party happening around you, studying the pages intently, quietly. It made me smile because it was so you. You love your friends and had a blast at your party, but would be choose a warm spot on the patio with a book any day. And you don't even read yet. You of course had that Wonder Woman book memorized by the time you got home. So you.

I love how carefully studious and observant you are. I hate it too. When we 'borrowed' a couple of the gift bags from your party for your birthday presents this morning, the first thing you said, "these bags are from my birthday party!" I didn't even know that you'd noticed the bags! But of course you did. Because the reality is, Amelia dear, that you notice everything. You've been able to give direction to your favorite places since you were 2. You memorize puzzle pieces and entire movie scenes. You always know where my keys are. Or when I try to hide something. And when it seems like maybe something gets by you, you've cataloged it, thinking it over, only to bring it up later. Sometimes I swear I can see you storing information, processing. It's scary and impressive and crazy, annoying and awesome too.

From two pacifist, animal-loving parents, it's totally perplexing how much you like to kill things. When I explained what it's like to go fishing, your dad and I told you that you can release the fish back into the lake or eat it. You chose the latter option. So that scenario backfired. For such a sensitive, sweet little love, you are completely fascinated by dead things--little creatures from the yard, or scary, bloody zombies. Maybe this is weird, but I kinda love your little dark side. I love that you love to be scared and are drawn to creepy things without fear. Of course, it's hilarious considering how fearful you tend to be otherwise.

I love that you're a mixed bag. So tough and strong physically and without a competitive bone in your body. How easily you get hurt, but how easily you forgive. I love that you cry from the tiniest scratch on a knee but take the doctor's shots without blinking, insisting on watching the needle. I adore how loving and cuddly you've become but how independent you are too. I love that you have a huge sweet tooth for dessert "gessert" but that fruit disappears from your plate first at every meal. I can't help but giggle when you use grown up words and sentiments with child-like innocence.

Nothing makes my heart sing more than watching you as a sister. I'm convinced that you are the best big sister ever a baby sister could have. I've caught you protecting her on the playground, holding her during the sad scene of the movie, and sharing your birthday presents. I love that the only thing that can end our morning snuggles is Annie waking up--because as soon as you hear her, you run to her room. Every. Single. Morning. I melt watching you introduce her to your school friends or random kids at the park. You're such a proud, loving sister. You use kind words with her, help her with your shoes, and give her hugs when she cries. I can't help but think that your baby sister Annie is so lucky to be guided by you. We should all be so lucky to have a big sister like you, Amelia.

You really are an awesome girl.

You are my all-time favorite little kid. You are my light, Bug. You are my greatest lesson. You are my heart and you are my soul. And when it finally hit me that you were turning 5, I slid to the floor of the shower and cried big, sobbing, ugly tears. I think we are closer than ever now that you are such a big girl and I think you've gotten more fantastic each year and I look so forward to the changes in store for you this year. . . I really do, baby. But you know what? It just hurts sometimes. I don't want you to stay little forever and I can't wait to watch you grow, but I will still miss the littler you.

Happy Birthday sweet angel. I love you so. . . even if it hurts sometimes.