Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Day One

Well, today was day one of summer vacation and I'm happy to say that we hit the ground running! We have big plans to keep busy this summer and not lose any of the excellent learning Abby has gained this year. I have to say though that by 1 p.m. I was instituting "rest time" - not for Abby, but for me. It didn't take long for her to wear me out, and Zeke was there right along with me.

It's hard to see here, but she's getting some pretty good
height on her jump!
We began our day with a walk in the park. We have a lovely park pretty close to us and the exercise will do all of us good. So we buckled Zeke into his harness, tied our tennis shoes, and were off. I have to say, it was a great way to start the day. The scenery was beautiful as we passed by a pond filled with cattails and walked across the bridge through the woods. The best part though was watching Abby as she greeted everyone we passed. I love watching her hand out happy hellos.

Next, we came home to get ready for some errands. First up was heading to Mom's school to pick up some math papers. I've decided that everyday we will do some reading, writing, and math. The first grade teacher at my school generously offered her files to me, and so today we went to pick through them to get our daily math lessons. I also got a lesson in compromise. Abby was so good while I gathered her work that she convinced me she deserved some time on the playground.

Twirly slides are only second best to the swings.

After the playground it was off to the library. Yes, today was a big day; Abby signed up for her very own library card. I have to say that even I was impressed with the beautiful new kids' section in the recently renovated library. Abby immediately sat down to play at the computer, while I scoured the stacks for some of her favorite book characters. One of the best parts was that she was able to check out her own books. Pretty cool, huh?

Scanning her very own card

Checking out her own books

Finally, we were on our way home, but our planned day was not over yet. After lunch we had "carpet time" and enjoyed a fun tale about a little dog that dreamed big. Zeke enjoyed that book.

Next, we had math time and reading group. Our book this week was about emotions and what faces tell us about how people are feeling. It was interesting (but not surprising) that Abby did not want to talk about, or emulate, any of the negative faces. She was thrilled to show me "happy", "excited", and "sleepy", but wanted nothing to do with "sad", "mad", or "shy". When I asked her to draw her favorite face she chose "happy", of course.

For writing this summer I'm going to have Abby keep a journal detailing all the things we do each day. She also needs to practice putting events in beginning, middle, and end order. So, we ended our lessons today by writing about our morning. I wrote the sentences and Abby provided the illustrations. Then she put the three pages in the right order.

I got two eyes for this one. Abby told me she only needed one.

Apparently, today my desk needed to be green.

Here she drew the stacks with books. She informed me that the orange
books were "Daddy's books".
It was a fun morning mainly because she continues to impress me with how much she learns and her desire to learn more. I'm realizing that my challenge may not be getting her to continue to work this summer, but finding enough work for her to do! That, my friends, is a great problem to have, wouldn't you say?

Saturday, June 7, 2014


Friends have been on my mind lately, namely Abby's friends. Abby is the quintessential people person and her friends are incredibly important to her. She loves playing with other kids and takes every opportunity to do so. We have a core group of friends that Abby has grown up with and I have so enjoyed seeing them play together throughout the years. Even when they fight with each other, I find myself smiling because these friends are the closest things to siblings she has.

In the last year I've noticed something though. The crazy kid parties of the past have gotten a bit quieter as the kids' interest shifts from things like dolls and dress-up to video games and friendship bracelets. All of the kids are getting older and more mature, and I love to watch that as well. The thing is, Abby is still very much interested in those dolls and ball gowns. Earlier this week I was feeling a bit down thinking about how there may come a day when Abby's friends' interests have gone beyond her own, and that day may be sooner, rather than later. My fear was that her friends would leave Abby behind in their race to grow up. Then a couple of things happened, and both had to do with dance.

Since September we've had Abby in a tap/jazz class. To say that she loves it is a bit of an understatement. She will wake up on a Monday and ask right away, "Dance today?", and I have to tell her that it isn't for another couple of days. It has never been a problem to get her moving on "Dance Day", unless it's to get her going once class is over and we have to go home. The tights, leotard, shoes, and music are right up her ally. She also loves to go see "her girls" - the term she uses for the other girls in the class. When she started the class she didn't know any of them, and they didn't know her. Those wonderful girls embraced her wholeheartedly and welcomed Abby into their dance crew beautifully. They encourage her, they miss her when she isn't there, pray for her when she's sick, and  they help her stay focused when she lets the music move her a bit too enthusiastically. That class is wonderful.

Wednesday was Abby's last class until Fall and I was sad to hear that some of the girls from the class would be moving on to the more advanced class next year. I think that the office manager of the studio could see my disappointment because she laughed and said, "Abby will do great! It won't be a problem for her to be with new girls. You know, because she has such a hard time making friends." The last bit was heavy with sarcasm and had me laughing too, because making friends has never been one of Abby's struggles. This thought stayed with me this week and was driven home more poignantly today.

Today we had dress rehearsal for tomorrow's dance recital. Abby was thrilled to be able to get her costume on, but even more so that Mom was letting her wear eyeshadow and lipstick! As soon as we walked through the door of the auditorium I heard a voice call out, "Abby!" I looked up to see a beautiful ballerina trotting toward us in order to give Abby a big hug. Abby was then quickly surrounded by about four other girls who were waiting in a line to practice their dance. You see, some of the girls in Abby's class also take ballet and they were so happy to see her that they made a point to greet her. Abby was thrilled to see them as well and couldn't take her eyes off the yards of blue tulle that floated around them. My heart swelled as we went to find a seat and watch her friends dance.

I continued to watch Abby as she ooh'd and ahh'd over all of the costumes and girls that walked around the auditorium. She told people how beautiful they looked and I watched the girls and their mothers stop and revel in her praise. Eventually, she made her way to the front row of seats and clapped and cheered loudly as each class finished their dances. After her turn on the stage she took time to photo bomb a few pictures of a group of older girls she'd never met. It was those same girls that moments later involved Abby in a game of Ring Around the Rosie - a game that I suppose was purely for Abby's benefit. They did get a bit concerned when she followed them to the wings of the stage, but I assured them that I wouldn't let her join them on stage.

Today drove home the fact that I have no need to worry about Abby not having friends. She has some pretty spectacular friends already, but she also has an amazing ability to draw people to her. Abby will never be without friends because she genuinely loves people, and others see and respond to that. Once again Abby proved to me that my worries are needless. It isn't the first time....and I'm sure it won't be the last.
Rather confident, wouldn't you say?

Jazz hands!!

Abby loves tying shoes. She is still learning how, but she likes to
be helpful too. One nice girl in her class let Abby "start" tying her
shoes today. Have I mentioned how much I love that group of girls?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Mom's Learning Curve

Abby has a wonderful temperament. She is as sweet and loving as they come...she is also stubborn and independent. We often hear glowing reports from her teachers about how she has such a positive influence on the other students and how she is an absolute "angel". I agree, she is a pretty spectacular kid, but lately we've been seeing less and less of that "angel" at home. Instead, we've been getting the demanding general who seems bent on perfecting her tantrum throwing abilities. She always redeemed herself by bedtime, but the path to get to that point has been rather rocky.

We began asking questions like, What is going on with her? and Could it be hormones? It was one question that Jason asked though, that really got me thinking - Are we too hard on her? I mentally reviewed our days and was convicted. I was spending far too much time and energy bossing that poor kid around. I could hear myself saying things like:

  • Abby, you can show me the dance in an minute. Come here so we can wash your hands.
  • Abby, it's time to come inside, you need to eat.
  • We need to do your finger poke, come and sit down.
  • Abby, no...
  • Abby, stop...
  • Abby, come here!
I'd become a horrible nag. Frankly, I couldn't blame her for being incredibly angry and frustrated. Now I wasn't "on" her all the time, we really do have great fun around here, but the fact of the matter was, I wasn't giving her the room she needed to feel independent and valued. I spend my days managing a classroom of kids and Abby had become one more for me to manage. 

So, the last two days I've been experimenting. Instead of barking out orders I've backed off and given her choices. I've replaced commands with phrases like:
  • Abby, let me know when you are ready to wash your hands.
  • How about we come outside after dinner to play?
  • Let me know when you are ready for your finger poke.
  • I'm going to head upstairs, you are welcome to come up too.
  • Hey Abby? Could you help me....?
Let me tell you how the last two days have gone: 
  • We've had no tantrums or tears. 
  • Abby has not fought coming in the house after school, getting her hands washed, going potty, or getting a bath - all tasks that routinely would spark arguments. 
  • Abby has cleaned up her toys (without prompting), took the time to straighten ups things around the living room, and helped me empty the dishwasher - all with a smile on her face. 
  • There's been no yelling, frustration, or stress. 
  • There has been more laughing, fun, and smiles. 
  • And most importantly, I've seen with new eyes what a lovely young lady Abby is becoming. 

I'd spent so much time and energy trying to figure out what Abby's problem was, that I failed to see that I should have been looking a bit closer to home. It is hard for this mom to give up control, but I'm looking forward to a summer of practicing turing over more and more responsibility to Abby and watching her rise to the challenge - because, as you know, she's pretty spectacular.

Are you surprised she picked out these sunglasses?
Me neither.

I love her smiling eyes.
Determined. Nothing will hold her back.