School’s out

Maria did it up right on her last day of school – she rode her scooter in her white sundress and pink chain necklace, and stopped by Stauf’s for a blueberry scone for breakfast.

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It was definitely a bittersweet day for Ri. She loved her teacher this year, Mrs. Palmer. Mrs. Palmer is a hip, conscious, progressive, intelligent, technology savvy, non-conformist teacher. Her classroom doesn’t have the traditional tables and chairs; it has bean bags and funky chairs and rugs. She teaches a large portion of her class by computer – all of her second graders, including Ri, created and maintained their own blog during the year. She was great for Maria.

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Mrs. Palmer made a tile plaque for each child as an end-of-the-year present. She told me she cried as she read it to Ri. I cried when I read it, too. So thoughtful and further evidence that she is wonderful. She really captured Ri’s qualities, especially that she finds such joy in the ordinary which will make her life experiences all the more extraordinary.

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And then there was Mario’s graduation. Ri gave up a birthday party to go to it (“How can I miss Mario’s big day, mom?!”). Mario already felt “above” his friends when he marched into school. After all, he’d been out of preschool for a whole week since David began babysitting; all of his friends were still “stuck there” as Mario told us over and over.

His teachers made him a graduation cap that he was quick to scrutinize and determine was too big (it fit just right to me). They tightened it but then it was too small. I finally had to make two more adjustments before he was content (his teachers won’t miss that, I am sure).

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He walked in the muscle room with his class and waited for his name to be called. He received a certificate from his teachers and was polite and darling on the stand (I was hoping he’d break out in Gangum Style!).

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Patty and Joe came down for his graduation, and while he was waiting for his name to be called he kept begging to go home with them for the weekend. Do you think he got that wish?

Of course he did. And then he became a super-happy graduate!

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Kindergarten or Bust

And that’s how Mario left his class remembering him: dancing Gangum Style. He got inspired to dance by one of his classmates who told me what he’d miss most about Mario was how funny he was when he danced Gangum Style. Another kid in the class said she’d miss how Mario yelled “whoop whoop” in the middle of class. I have a feeling Mario may be heading to the principal’s office a few times once he hits kindergarten.

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He wanted me to bring cupcakes on his last day – half chocolate and half vanilla. He stood next to them and ordered his classmates to get a paper towel and sit at their seats. He then picked up one at a time and asked the class who liked Madagascar or Avengers or Spongebob – all the different character rings that came on the cupcakes. He’d drop one off and then tell the class to settle down and wait their turn. He loves being in charge and he loves all eyes on him.

I asked if he’d be sad leaving his class and never returning. His response was unequivocal and quick: “No, I’m in kindergarten now.” He’s made it to the big show and he is not looking back.

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Sweet Mario

There is a little girl in Mario’s class who is causing Mario much heartburn. 

Her name is Lily. 

And she is mean. 

I can’t believe I am saying that about a four-year old but I got a first-hand viewing when I dropped off Mario yesterday.  She was playing at the table that Mario loves (it lights up and you build on it).  Mario whispered to me “Lily is the new girl.  I want to play with her.”  How sweet, I thought.  When he approached her, she growled like a grizzly “Get away from me, Mario!”  He turned to me and frowned. 

My Caring Mario

I left after giving him advice to play with other friends.  At dinner last night, he brought Lily’s behavior up again.  “She is so mean to everyone, especially me. She poked me with a straw.”  We discussed how she may be sad because it was her first week at school and maybe that is why she is being mean (I should clarify that before such discussion, Jon was tempted to give a different piece of advice but he refrained!).  We talked about some books that we had read that showed a bully who became nice once someone paid attention to her.  I explained to Mario that maybe he just needs to continue to try to be nice to her. 

As we discussed how our days went at dinner tonight, Mario brought up Lily again.  “She hit Grant in the head and he hit his head against the table today.  That wasn’t nice of her.”  I asked if he told his teacher and he said that he did but Lily still acted mean.  I told him to steer clear of her for a while and then maybe she will want to play eventually (Maria chimed in with “Just go play with your girlfriend Jillian!”).  He shook his head in discouragement, and told us how he told Lily’s dad how mean she was being to him and all of his friends.  I asked Mario what her dad said and Mario told me he just walked away from him (maybe where she gets it!). 

I made sure that we read the Recess Queen again tonight.  Mario immediately compared Lily to Mean Jean, the main character of the book.  When Mean Jean learns to play with everyone at the end of the book, Mario observed “maybe Lily will learn how to do that, too.”  It is strange how obsessed he seems with this little girl but I think it is a good thing.  I think he truly cares about her and wants to see her happy and playing at school.  Either that, or he is ready to cuss her out and he is just prepping me so I understand when he does it!  No, not my boy….

Sharing Breakthrough

 

Maria taking care of her brother

Maria has always had a generous heart.  When she was as young as two, she loved to take presents to her daycare teachers and bring in treats for all of her friends to eat along side of her.  I remember one time at Christmas when I had made stockings full of goodies.  One of the goodies was cookies – Maria’s favorite.  When I gave the stockings to her to present to her teachers, she looked at the cookies.  She looked up at me and asked “are any for me?” I told her that all of the cookies were made for her teachers.  She swallowed deeply and said no more.  She took the stockings into them and gave them a huge hug putting aside the cookies she was missing out on in favor of the thrill of giving. 

Then there is Mario….  Jon and I stood aghast the day we took Mario into school with his Timbit donuts and he refused to share any with his friends or his teachers.  And he not only refused, he was rather mean about it shoving people away from him and holding the donuts so close to him that you would have thought they were gold.  We explained to him how important it was to share because it made others happy, and in turn, made you happy.  He looked at us like we were insane.  Maria tried to explain the importance of sharing, too, by taking a different approach.  She went after his interests by telling him if he did not share, they others would not share with him.  Still nothing. 

The face of a non-sharer

But today, we had a major breakthrough.  A succession of acts of sharing.  First, we headed into daycare this morning with ten Timbits and a sleeve of crackers (yeah, please avoid the commentary on the breakfast selection).  When Mario strolled into class, his class mates swarmed around him and his Timbit box begging for a donut.  Mario stood paralyzed.  The teacher asked the piranhas to step back so Mario could breathe.  Then Mario announced that he would pass out donuts and crackers to his friends.  He handed out Timbits first and then crackers to the remaining friends.  I praised his generosity and he beamed a smile my way. 

After we ate dinner tonight, we made some more of our Zoku pops.  As the kids licked them, I realized I had forgotten to return a red box movie from two nights ago so I made them throw on their coats and head to the car.  On the way out, Maria lost half of her popsicle.  She wailed and pointed to the ground.  She continued to cry all the way to the car and I continued to try to console her.  As she stood in the car, Mario got in his seat and lifted his arm up with popsicle in hand.  ‘Maria, you can have my popsicle.”  I felt like the heavens opened up.  The world shifted on its axis.  Maria and I both looked at each other in awe.  She accepted his offer gladly since he had barely licked his at the time.  I buckled him in his seat and whispered in his ear how proud I was of him. 

Sibling love

 That same beaming smile washed over his face.

 

Mario’s play debut

Mario starred in his first play tonight along with the rest of his preschool class….

Mario waiting for his cue from Ms. Ashley

It’s preschool so no one is supposed to stand out but I must be the bragging mom and state that Mario scored a few one-liners and sang in front of the audience without batting an eye.  He is definitely a show boat.  Every year, Mario’s school holds a fall festival where they bring in a petting zoo, bouncy house, tumbling, etc.  This year, they decided that each preschool room would do a 15 minute play.  Mario’s room decided to do a play about the book Abiyoyo.  A wonderful South African folk tale about a little boy and his father and a giant monster.  Mario loves the book and used to always come home singing “Abiyoyo Abiyoyo.”  Mario’s teacher, Mr. Park, painted their faces and draped them in tissue paper and brown paper grocery bags.  The kids were so excited.  Mario took me to see the “production” room where they would rehearse (he also knew the brownies were in that room).  He adjusted his tissue paper around his arms a hundred times and looked at his eye mask ten times in the mirror (he is not vain at all!). 

Then the time came.  The kids all trotted out while the parents sat on little benches waiting to see their little babes perform.  We all had our video cameras rolling and our phone cameras clicking.  Ms. Ashley read the story while the kids acted it out.  It all went fairly smoothly for the first five minutes but then there was a scene where a huge paper boulder had to be picked up by Abiyoyo.  Abiyoyo (two kids sharing a costume) threw it and it hit another kid.  That kid threw it at another kid and so on and so forth.  It was hard to get much control after that.  I was surprised by Mario, however, who would usually get in on any type of throwing, kicking, violent action possible.  He just stood by Ms. Ashley reading the book and adding his two cents whenever he felt the need.  At the end, he sang “Abiyoyo” “to the crowd of parents and took a giant bow.  What a character.  He definitely has a personality on him. 

Mario and his buddy being goofy

I am glad we stayed for the evening.  Ever since Maria started at Grandview schools, we have been barely involved with Mario’s daycare.  It used to be our everything when Maria and then Maria and Mario were there.  We knew all the teachers, knew all of the schedules, brought in goodies.  Now we are lucky to remember all of Mario’s teachers.  Tonight reminded me of how grateful I am for Mario’s school teachers and administrators.  They are a fun and smart group of people who genuinely care about the kids.  However, I do wish they’d ask before they cover Mario’s face in black face paint!

Subway Adventure

Maria on her third b-day enjoying cupcakes at daycare.

Maria got out of school early yesterday (at 11:30). Jon and I are still not used to this kindergarten deal where kids get out of school early, don’t have school during the middle of the week, get two weeks off for vacation.  Don’t these schools know that we rely on them to be babysitters for our children while we work our 9-5 jobs?  We are still in denial that she is going to be off all summer.  We keep waiting and hoping that some pixie dust will create a summer babysitter for Maria – we are the worst procrastinators.  Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about Mario because he is still in a daycare that takes care of us working parents by staying open until 6 pm.  

Jon and I realized on Thursday afternoon that Maria was off early.  Typical last-minute realization.  Therefore, we decided to do split shifts: I picked her up from school and he watched her later in the day.   Before school I had told her that I would take her to lunch so she could daydream all day about where she wanted to go.  When I picked her up, she ran over to me and squeezed me hard.  Pure excitement.  There is nothing better in life than an ecstatic squeeze and smile from your kid.  To be loved….

Maria getting ready for a "nutritious" lunch at school with her friends!

We walked to the car and she told me that she had chosen Chipotle.  Within a minute of getting in the car, it turned to Noodles.  Then Wendy’s.  We finally agreed on Subway because she wanted a salad and sandwich.  Alright, I thought, something half-way healthy – she has been eating the school lunches, which consist of fried cheese on a stick, french toastix, and cheeseburgers.

As we walked into the store, I described some sandwiches.  They have ham and turkey and roast beef and chicken…

“Mom, I want a meatball sub with extra cheese.”  My girl.

She also wanted a “salad” which consisted of lettuce, cheese, and croutons.  I made her add some tomatoes and peppers but she picked right through them later.  Then she picked up a bag of Doritos (“I promise I will just eat a couple”) and a chocolate milk.  What a smorgasboard.  We would have been better off at Five Guys Burgers and Fries.  We sat at the bar and began eating our meal.  Like her mama, she can take down some food.  Her meatball sandwich was gone in 5 minutes and we both moved onto the salad.  I must admit the Doritos were a good choice – I have not had those in a long time and they hit the spot. 

My girl taking down a cupcake!

Finally, we topped the meal off with a chocolate chip cookie and cupcake.  So much for Jared’s shtick about losing weight through Subway!

Graduation

My oldest child graduated. 

Maria celebrating her "diploma"

No, not from high school or college.  From pre-school.  Yes, you heard it right.  Pre-school. Other mothers are shaking their heads thinking about the time that Georgie or Mandy graduated from pre-school and how silly they felt making such a big deal over it but how they could not stop themselves either.  Women who are not mothers are shaking their heads and laughing hysterically at the insanity of hosting a graduation for a pre-schooler. 

I remember reading a passage out of Laurie Moore’s novel where the lead woman character was discussing her

Maria and one of her teachers

 wedding day.  She surmised that it is not the actual marriage that is so important – it is the memories and milestones you take from the event that mark your life and allow you to remember important times.  That is how I feel about Ri’s graduation.  It is not so much the graduation certificate but the memories of the event itself with Grandma and Grandpas there; Mario running around wanting to snatch a cookie; Maria excited and anxious to get her certificate and hug her teachers.   

Maria was radiant wearing her shimmery green dress and egyptian silver sandals.  She smiled and waved to us as she stood waiting for her graduation certificate.  All I could think about was “Is she really going to get taller, grow hair under her arms, get breasts, and eventually become an adult like me?  It seems impossible. Kindergarten is going to be a whirlwind for her at first – she tends to have a lot of her dad in her and one area that she really has him in her is when it comes to meeting new people.  She likes her small “posse” of friends and becomes very shy when others enter the mix.  If not shy, she becomes stand-offish and even rude.  So, kindergarten should be interesting.  She does have one friend from pre-school in her class so that will help.

Go Maria!

I gotta face the fact that she is starting school and with school comes cliques and heartbreaks and hurt feelings.  As my friend says to me when her daughter tells her that someone hurt her feelings at school “I just want to go up to that kid and tell her that if she hurts my little girl’s feelings, I am going to have to hurt her!”   But with school comes friendships and sisterhood and learning and interests, also.  Here’s to kindergarten and Maria finding a lot more in the latter category than in the former.  Go Maria!