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Maddie’s 5 and a half!

August 28th, 2013

I’m only about a week late with Maddie’s letter this time…not too bad! Big changes between the last letter and this one with the start of kindergarten!

Dear Maddie,

So much has happened and changed since my last letter that it is hard to know how to start. Obviously, the biggest change is that you’re now officially a kindergartener! In our county, traditional school starts next week, but you’ve already been at school for a month and a half! We were able to get into the year round school and track that we were hoping to get, and we are very happy about our choice so far. We were just getting into a good routine, and now you’re tracked out for the next 3 weeks. Fortunately, your first two days of track out camp have gone very well. We are so proud of how you are handling all of these transitions and new situations.

Your first day of school was Thursday, July 11th, and you had a great first day! Our school does staggered entry for the kindergarteners so that only a few are at school each day in the first week (except Friday). We picked Thursday as we thought that you would make a better transition if you made a clean break between preschool and kindergarten. I took a vacation on Friday so that you and I could have a special day together. You came home happy on that first day, though you didn’t share much with us when you first got into the car. The first thing you said was, “are we going to get ice cream?” I had promised you that we would get ice cream after your first day of school, and you don’t forget promises like that! We went to get ice cream, and you started to open up about your day. They did a lot of assessments, though they didn’t reveal to you that you were being tested. You saw right through their shenanigans and told us that you had a lot of tests and got a lot of check marks. Smart girl. You even did a little reading for the teachers on the first day. Many of our initial fears were alleviated on that first day!

At bedtime that night, you said, “I’m not afraid of kindergarten anymore, even if I don’t have any friends!” Your biggest worry with kindergarten continues to be not having friends. You are starting to make friends, but you aren’t sure. You have talked about Anjali and Ava quite a bit, but then you announced that Anjali wasn’t your friend anymore because she wanted to sit with someone else at lunch. We’re trying to explain that you can share your friends with others, and a few days of not sitting next to a friend doesn’t spell the end of a friendship. At the same time, I really know how you feel. I know I had my feelings hurt in some of the same ways when I was your age.

I had thought you might want to go to the museum on your special day, but you didn’t want to do that. You chose instead to go to Pullen Park, and the weather turned out to be perfect. Melissa joined us, and you were very excited that she spent the day with us! Melissa is definitely one of your favorite people. You and Melissa rode the carousel, we all rode the train, and you rode the kiddie boats. You enjoyed swinging and playing on the play structures. Melissa and I even did a little bit of swinging! We had LocoPops (fancy popsicles, yum!) at the park, and for lunch you requested The Shiny Diner (your new favorite place because you can have chocolate chip pancakes for any meal). Daddy met us for lunch. We then went to Target where you were excited to get your school supplies. We didn’t find out our teacher until the night of your first day, so we didn’t have our official supply list ahead of time. We also went to the mall where you decided to get the large R2-D2 Lego set. You have been working on it, and it’s going to take us a little longer to get it all put together! I’m so proud of you as you have put together about 95% of it all by yourself. It is certainly a difficult set. That evening, we went to dinner with Aunt Kristin, another one of your favorite people. It was a wonderful day for you, and it was a great kick-off for elementary school.

The next Monday, you started your first full week with your newly assigned teacher. The first few days of the week did not go as smoothly as we had hoped! Everyone warned us that you might be cranky for the first few weeks, but your staggered entry day went so well that we thought maybe the transition would be easy. Our teacher recommended that we walk you into the classroom for at least a few days. Those first few days, you plodded from the car to the classroom. We tried to get you to lead the way, and it took you 20 minutes to go the fairly short distance from the car to your classroom. When Daddy picked you up in the afternoons, you were grumpy and tired. The first two weeks were challenging for everyone. Even your brother had a difficult time with the transition since so much attention was on his big sister. Your daddy and I had to keep reminding each other that this was a difficult transition for you. We certainly needed some extra patience for those first few weeks!

You came home from that first “real” day with quite a few complaints. Your dad and I had to suppress our laughter with some of them. You complained most loudly about your assigned table. You said, “I got stuck at the orange table! Not the purple. Not the green. Not even the blue. Yucky orange. I hate orange. I don’t even want to look at it!” You weren’t too happy about everyone calling you “Madeline,” either. You have been stuck with the orange table, but everyone does call you “Maddie” now. Perhaps you’ll be at the purple table after track out.

Fortunately, after the first few weeks, you were back to your usually cheerful self. You have been excited to go to school, and you’re excited when Daddy picks you up in the afternoon. Right now, Daddy takes you to school and picks you up in the carpool line. You have no interest in riding the bus, and we’re not ready to send you on the bus either. Daddy set up a desk in his office with a computer and other things to keep you entertained so that he can work after picking you up. This seems to be working, and we were all in a great routine…so naturally, we were concerned about tracking out this week! Now, we have a temporary new routine and you’ll have adjustments to make when returning to school (including a different classroom, since year round schools rotate their classrooms!).

Most of the things that you’ve learned in your first 5 weeks at school are things you already knew from preschool. The approach is a bit different. You can now name all the Letterland people, and you’re quite proud of that. Letterland people are supposed to help you learn your letters and phonics. You have had that part mastered for a while, but you certainly have demonstrated your ability to learn new things with your memorization of the entire Letterland line up! We are going to have to work with you on demonstrating what you know by following instructions on your schoolwork. Sometimes you still want to do things your own way. Your behavior at school is great on most days. Your color chart has been mostly green (your starting color) with some blue (one notch above) and purple (two notches above). Twice, you have had “yellow” days, and both times you got in trouble for talking to yourself in one of the centers.

During track outs, you will mostly be attending track out camps. We did some research and picked a smaller camp with an arts focus and younger children. You are loving it! Today was your second day, and we are so proud of you. You are excited to tell us about the things you’ve been doing. In addition to doing lots of art, of course, you get time to play outside. Outside, they have a zip line, play structures, and even a small bounce house. I think you’re in heaven at this camp. We are so relieved that you are having a good time, especially since you are signed up for the next two weeks!

Art is definitely one of your passions. You can sit for hours and create. We still get the Kiwi crates, and you love doing the monthly crafts. Your favorite “special” at school is art (PE, media center, technology, and music are fun, too). Recently, you put together a block mosaic by cutting out squares and rectangles from colored paper and gluing them onto a white sheet of paper. You presented it to me and said it was like Piet Mondrian. I had to Google him, and I was impressed with the reference! We have been doing a lot of painting at home, and your drawings at home and school have gotten more advanced lately. You’ve been drawing a lot of pictures of you and me together, and I love that! You’ve drawn and painted a beach scene several times now that depicts you and your brother relaxing on the beach with an ice cream cart next to you.

You have been very interested in going to the beach, and sadly we have not been able to go this year. What you don’t know is that we have a secret weekend beach trip planned for the end of September! This will be the first time that we’ve surprised you with a trip, so we will see how that goes. We plan to pick you up from school and head to the beach. I think that you and your brother will be excited.

Our big trip this year was to New York City with Melissa and Jason. You and your brother talked about the trip for months before we went, and we read some storybooks about the various landmarks we might see. We were able to see several of those sites including the Brooklyn Bridge, the bull on Wall Street, the Hall of Science, the Unisphere, Times Square, the Natural History Museum (dinosaurs!), Central Park, Grand Central, the Statue of Liberty (from afar) and the Library. Other highlights included our fancy lunch at the American Girl doll store and a chocolate fondue dessert at Dylan’s Candy Bar. We had a wonderful time in the city together with very full days full of fun and chocolate!

You were thrilled that one of our big themes of the trip was CHOCOLATE, one of your favorite things in the world. You managed to have chocolate on every day of the trip (sometimes more than once!). We had reservations at Max Brenner for one of our dinners. As soon as I learned that there was a restaurant that had a menu full of chocolate, I knew we had to go. For dessert at the chocolate restaurant, you had a syringe full of chocolate. Of course you loved it, but the chocolate fondue experience may have topped that experience. Not only did you get a ton of chocolate, you were able to have just about as many gummy worms as you wanted. What’s not to love about a chocolate restaurant, a candy restaurant, the Hersey store, and M&M’s World? You loved the big pretzels that we got from street vendors, and a Hello Kitty popsicle in Central Park. In addition to all the treats, you loved climbing on the rocks in Central Park, riding the carousel, putting your hands in the mouth and nostrils of the Wall Street Bull, meeting the policeman in Times Square, seeing the new One World Trade Center (we were all excited about this because Jason’s sister was the project manager for the beacon at the top), and seeing the Lego and American Girl stores (and getting a few goodies from those as well). You and your brother kept trip journals, and you enjoyed doing this as well. This is something that I do on all of our big trips, so I’m excited that you and Cullen are starting your own trip journals!

You didn’t love all of our NYC experiences (though you did love most of it!). You seemed to enjoy riding the subway, but you were not a fan of the stinky stations and urine-filled elevators. You would often hold your nose until we were out of these areas! You liked seeing the Brooklyn Bridge, but you did not want to get too close to the edges and did NOT want to get out of the safety of the stroller. You were also nervous about anyone getting too close to the subway tracks. Other than these few complaints, you absolutely loved New York City. This made me happy, since NYC is one of my favorite places to visit! It was so much fun to share it with you!

The following weekend, we went to visit Nana and Papa which included a side trip to the Carolina Raptor Center. You will often say that you don’t like animals, but I think you enjoyed seeing the owls, eagles, and vultures. We all had a nice visit with Nana and Papa. We were supposed to visit Kristin and Chad, but Kristin was sick. We were looking forward to seeing the baby goats and other animals on their farm. Kristin had brought a couple baby goats to our house a few months ago, and we were all entertained! Hopefully, we’ll have an opportunity to see the farm another time.

We haven’t had as many trips this year since we weren’t sure what our school schedule would be or how we would handle the transitions. We do have a trip to Cincinnati and Kentucky coming up soon as well as the secret beach trip! Daddy and I had our own trips as well. Daddy spent a few days in Arizona going to Spring Training games with his fantasy baseball friends, and I had a work trip to San Francisco. While Daddy was out of town, we did all kinds of fun things (including going to the Shiny Diner for the first time). We went bowling for the first time, and we had Sophie over for a sleepover.

While Sophie was with us, we did a lot of Easter crafts including decorating sugar cookies and egg dying. We also hid and searched for eggs, did other crafts, and went to the neighborhood egg hunt. You and Cullen ended up sleeping on your floor in sleeping bags, but Sophie opted to sleep in the guest room with her mom. You all had a great time. When Daddy came home, you greeted him with “Daddy, Daddy! You missed all the fun!” We also did a dinosaur egg hunt at the Life and Science Museum on a different weekend as part of our Easter festivities. The Easter bunny made a welcome visit to our house and delivered books, candy, sticker pads, and other small items.

You’ve decided to make an exception to your rule about not liking animals and have decided that bunnies are acceptable. I don’t think that this is due to the Easter Bunny, but it occurs to me that it could be due to Sofia the First. You’ve surprised us all and decided that you do like certain princesses, and you are a bit obsessed with Sofia the First, the new Disney Junior kid princess. She does have a pet bunny, so maybe that’s why bunnies aren’t so bad anymore? Along with hundreds of other little girls, you have decided to be Sofia for Halloween. We tracked down a dress for you this weekend since they are already selling out. We’re going to have to find a Sofia amulet or you claim your outfit will not be complete. You tried on the dress and tiara and danced around the house to the Sofia the First soundtrack, leaving a trail of glitter everywhere. You were a very cute, happy girl.

This princess phase may have some advantages. The other day, you refused to drink water because “princesses do not drink water.” You have never been much of a water drinker, and we’ve been trying to encourage you to drink more. I told you I wasn’t sure about that and said I’d google to see whether princesses drink water. Sure enough, princesses drink lots of water to stay healthy. Next thing I knew, you were drinking your water happily. Yesterday, you asked if you could have a royal dinner. I asked you what you eat at a royal dinner. You said that you could have anything so I asked you what makes the dinner a “royal dinner.” You said, “You put your napkin on your lap. You use manners. You chew with your mouth closed. You don’t make a mess.” Yes, my sweet girl. We can have a royal dinner every night, if you like!

You may just have decided that you liked bunnies because your final art project at school was a purple paper mache bunny. You were very proud of your bunny, and we were excited to finally see your art project. Your final days of preschool involved a graduation ceremony for all of the graduates at Children’s House and a personal goodbye ceremony with the kids and teachers in your class. The preschool graduation was adorable. You and your classmates wore cute graduation caps and sang a few songs. You mostly stood in the back row and may have mouthed a lyric or two. You were singing the songs at home for us. Two of the songs were in French, and I know you’re going to miss your French class! You still do the French version of “eenie meenie miney moe” when you have to choose something.

Parents weren’t invited to the goodbye ceremony in the classroom, but you told us that it involved hugs and your friends and teachers saying nice things. Your teachers gave you a scrapbook with pictures of your experiences at Children’s House and personal messages reflecting on your 2.5 years at the school. You came by for a visit on the day after your first day of kindergarten, and you were swarmed like a rock star! The kids were all asking you questions and acting like they hadn’t seen you in years instead of a single day. They even wanted to touch your new hairband. Kindergarten is a big deal to the kids at Children’s House, so you were certainly the star on that day!

You had a week of “kindergarten camp” at preschool where the teachers started to prepare the graduates for the upcoming transition. The most exciting part of kindergarten camp for you was the day that you were allowed to bring your own lunch. You practiced school rules, talked about the things that will be different from your Montessori preschool, and even practiced school bus rules and safety.

Another exciting time for the graduates was a field trip on campus to see the construction site for the new building. Since we passed this building every day, we talked about it a lot. Cullen still calls the building, “Maddie’s building” when we pass it on the way to school. He still likes to check on the progress that they are making. On the field trip, you talked to members of the construction crew and saw a parade of construction vehicles.

You had your last bike day, and you chose to ride your Strider balance bike. You are so confident on that bike, and you zipped around the circle! You loved that your buddy Maggie rode her Strider bike with you. We did end up getting a nice bike for you around your birthday, though you wanted to try it with training wheels for a little while. You started to practice without training wheels just before bike day, but you weren’t comfortable enough to bring it to school. Only a few days after bike day, you were riding your big bike without training wheels with ease! I think all of your balance bike experience really helped.

I was a little sad about all the “lasts” in your classroom. I love the Muffins for Mom event that your classroom would do every year. This year, your gift to me was a sculpted heart necklace with your fingerprint. I think it’s my favorite classroom gift so far! You had another pajama day and two more sprinkler days. As school approached, you were very concerned about going to kindergarten and missing all of the sprinkler days! I’m glad you were able to participate in two of them before leaving. Your last sprinkler day was shared with your brother’s class and was on your last day of preschool. It was a very special last day!

You loved having your little brother at the same school. The two of you had the same lunch time, but you weren’t able to sit together. You could see each other across the room and wave. You often walked into the building holding hands and gave each other hugs before going to your own classrooms. In the Spring and Summer, you shared a playground every third week. The two of you were inseparable when you were on the same playground! I was glad that your last week was a shared playground week. Cullen really missed having you at his school when you left, and I know you’ll both be happy to be at the same school again when he goes off to kindergarten.

You and your brother are still best friends. You still talk about how you’re going to be a Mommy when you grow up, and that you’re going to marry Cullen. The two of you have gone through a few rough patches. Cullen often has his own ideas of what he wants to do, and you are having to adjust to the fact that he won’t always let you tell him what to do. His interests are sometimes different from yours. He’s very into superheroes, but I have even heard you guys compromise with your pretend play. He wanted to play super heroes, so you had “Hello Kitty powers” and he had “Spider-Man powers.” He threw webs, and you threw lollipops. Your idea of crime fighting was to make the enemy eat too many lollipops so that they would get sick. You two had a rough time playing together in the first few weeks that you were at kindergarten as well. I think you were both tired, and Cullen was unhappy that you were often the center of attention.

The last couple of weeks have been great. You and your brother love to dress up, and he lets you dress him in your clothes. You are very sweet to your brother as you start to teach him about some of the things that you are learning. I love seeing your patience with him when you’re teaching him something new, and I love seeing your sweetness when you do things like draw a picture for him. The two of you have a lot of love for each other.

During your rough patch, you went through a phase where you were biting your brother when you got frustrated. We have been working on appropriate responses to your frustrations. We took away privileges, we sent you to time out, and your brother would get special attention. The punishment that worked the best was the day that you bit your brother and subsequently were not allowed to go to the kid book club. Worse yet, your brother went instead of you. You weren’t happy about this, and you haven’t tried to taste Cullen since then!

Sophie’s mom had the great idea to start a book club for kids around your age. We had our first meeting in March, and you’ve been loving it! We started with the Magic Tree House books since they had so many great opportunities for exploring different themes. Our themes have been Irish folklore, Leonardo da Vinci, the ocean, the Olympics and ancient Greece, pirates, and outer space. Each meeting has activities related to the theme including crafts, games, and themed foods. Our outer space meeting was at the planetarium where we saw a special Magic Tree House show. We have started designating a general theme, and each kid will read a book that relates to the theme. This gives each of you an opportunity to share your book and tell everyone what you liked about it. I hope that this book club continues for a long time!

When you started school, we had to sign a parent/student/teacher contract. Your part of the contract had things like being respectful to the school, following school rules, and listening to your teacher. It also included two pieces that you claimed you did NOT agree to. The first was talking about your day to your parents, and the second was reading for 15 minutes every day. We explained to you that we were already reading way more than 15 minutes a day, as the reading requirement wasn’t necessarily just you reading to us. Lately, our nightly routine often includes 45 minutes of reading! You do read to us some, but you aren’t always in the mood to read. When you do read to us, you usually read at least 15 minutes. After we demonstrated how long 15 minutes of reading felt, you were more at ease with the requirement. You are getting faster with your reading, especially if you have read the book even once. You’re developing great inflection and intonation. Your reluctance to read is generally due to your fear of making mistakes. You want to do everything perfectly the first time.

Recently, we started reading chapter books without pictures to you. You were hesitant at first, but now you love that you can lay on my shoulder and listen to the story without looking at the pages. Our first book like that was The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. We both really enjoyed it! When Grandma and Grandpa were in town, you were treated to a book shopping spree at the book store. You picked out several new chapter books, and we have been working through those. You loved The Cupcake Club: Peace, Love, and Cupcakes. I enjoyed it well enough, but I didn’t think it was as great as the other two we’ve read. My favorite so far is Remarkable by Elizabeth Foley. It was quite long and took a while to read together, but we both thought it was a lot of fun! I’m so excited that we’re getting into all sorts of fun books together. We’re reading the third Clementine book now, which is another series that we love. You’ve also been bringing home a new picture book each week from your school’s library. Sometimes we’ll read these to you, and sometimes you’ll read them to us.

Your sleep continues to be a roller coaster. Since my last letter, you have gone through several periods where you were doing great. We were using walkie talkies to give you a way to call us for comfort, but we have stopped using them for now. That was working like a charm for a little while. If you have another regression, we may try that tactic again. Your most recent regression has involved you waking at least once a night to wake Daddy so that he’ll accompany you to the potty. I’m happy to say that the last couple weeks have been great. You’ve been sleeping through the night, and if you’re still waking to go potty, you haven’t been waking us. I know you’ve been through a lot of transitions lately, so it’s understandable that you’ve had some sleep issues here and there.

You are quite excited that kindergarten means the end of nap time. You haven’t liked nap time for about 3 years now. For now, you have a rest towel at school, but I don’t think that you sleep at all. Rest time is only about 30 minutes, and this was one of your favorite things when you started kindergarten! The first day, you excitedly said, “I didn’t even close my eyes! Well, I did blink a lot.” The forced nap time at preschool was the reason that you didn’t like to wear pigtails or ponytails on school days. Now you insist on putting your hair in pigtails, ponytails, or a headband almost every day. We have gotten you some new hair accessories, and you’re excited about that! We made a special trip to Claire’s in the mall on your special day. It was your first time in that store, and you loved it. Melissa even bought you a Hello Kitty necklace that you have been wearing almost every day since then. You are having fun with your new accessories, and you continue to wear mostly dresses and skirts. You almost never want to wear shorts, and I don’t remember the last time you wore jeans.

You love to dress up around the house, putting on your favorite outfits or past Halloween costumes. We have gotten quite a lot of use out of your Minnie Mouse and Izzy costumes! I’m sure you’ll be wearing the Sofia dress often as well. You love to put on ballet outfits and put on ballerina shows. You have been asking for ballet lessons, and you will probably take lessons in the spring. You were taking swimming lessons this summer, and those were going fairly well. We got frustrated with your last set of lessons, and we are taking a break from those as well. The last instructor did not do a good job of teaching you. You do a good job of convincing others that you need more help than you really need, and the last instructor held you for the whole lesson. You weren’t learning anything. All the other kids in the class had the opportunity to swim several feet to the side of the pool. It was frustrating for us to watch, and we decided to stop those lessons for now. We may find private lessons or group lessons somewhere else. You will be doing rollerblading in the fall again. We took a break from those this summer, but I think you will enjoy those. We had some credits that we needed to use at the complex, so we wanted to take one more set of lessons.

In addition to lessons, we often do fun things as a family on the weekends. We have been going to a good number of plays and musicals this year. We saw Charlotte’s Web, Rapunzel, Winnie the Pooh, and a Disney Junior Live: Pirates and Princesses Adventure show. That show was just a couple days ago and featured your favorite Sofia the First (and Jake and the Neverland Pirates). We all had a great time at that show. We’ve been going to move movies at the theater as a family. It’s nice to be able to go to some of the movies that Daddy and I want to see. Recently, we have seen Epic, Despicable Me 2, and Monsters University.

You and Cullen still watch a lot of the same shows. You did go through most of the classic Carebears and Strawberry Shortcake episodes from the 1980s (same ones that I may have watched in my childhood!). You love Tenderheart Bear, my childhood Carebear that I mentioned in my last letter. As predicted, you are very, very attached to the bear. Tenderheart goes everywhere with you and sleeps with you each night. Baby Sister is still a prominent figure, but she doesn’t often share your bed these days.

Not too long ago, I asked you what your favorite things were. You answered, “Chocolate, playing with friends, ice cream, chocolate ice cream, all the desserts that could ever be except white chocolate and peanut butter.” You’ve had a great six months. Five is a great age for you with many changes that you’re handling like a pro. Of course, we have some challenges at times! You’ve been pretty healthy, though you have had strep throat twice more and are taking a daily allergy medication. You love your family! You are working on making new friends, and you miss your old friends at school. Fortunately, we will certainly keep in touch with some of them through various activities and your book club. You love being near us and interacting with us constantly, and you cherish bedtime stories and “tickles.” You are a sweet girl with a lot of love. I’m so proud to be your Mommy!

Love,
Mommy

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