Wednesday, July 31, 2013

I Before E

Being a teacher, David had a totally ridiculous grand plan that Morgan needed to be reading before kindergarten started. Yes, you read that correctly, before kindergarten started. Because the goal should be that she has already mastered all of the key skills over the summer so that she is bored and unruly the entire school year. Her teachers will love that.

Unfortunately, one thing that my daughter does not do well is perform under pressure. Every time David would try to sit down and work on sounding out words or learning more about consonant blends, Morgan would push back from the table, declare "learning time" over, and make a mad dash for the backyard. We needed a new plan.

I decided to try three things. One, I would try to make reading more of a game and less of a chore. Two, I would wait until she was a captive audience and wouldn't be distracted by the lure of the outdoors. Three, I would bribe her with promises of 20 minutes of TV if she finished the entire exercise. 

The game appeared to be simple enough. I wrote a series of words on the bathtub wall for Morgan to sound out during her bath. As she correctly identified the word, she got to cross it off the list. If she finished the entire list before her bath ended, she earned one more episode of My Little Pony before bed. 

Here's the problem. The English language can be a real asshole. We have blends, we have long vowel sounds, and short vowel sounds. We have letters that are silent, we have letters that make more than one sound, and we have exceptions to almost every rule of grammar. Oh yeah, and I am not a teacher. Needless to say, Morgan was extremely nervous about my plan.

But we powered through. I had thrown in a few sight words for her, knowing she would cross those off quickly and potentially build her confidence. And she did, and she was so proud.

She finished the entire list. Her little fingers looked like prunes and we had long since run out of hot water. But she's one step closer to reading and I am that much more grateful for the teachers and opportunities that lie ahead for my daughter as she starts school. To all of my teacher friends, enjoy these last few weeks of summer- it's kids like mine who are about to give you a run for your money.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

On My List

We are headed on vacation with my in-laws for a few days, in part because we like them, and in part to escape the oppressive summer heat that has ruined my summer strategy. You see, each summer, I make David lists. Lists for the grocery store, lists for cleaning, lists for projects around the house. When it gets this hot, David ignores all of my lists and takes Morgan to the YMCA every afternoon. My lists get longer, as do the hours David spends away from the house. Before you know it, school is back in session and I am out of luck.
Little did I know, David has been making his own lists. I recently opened one of our cabinets, only to discover that not only had he been jotting down his summer plans, but he's been collaborating with our daughter. To be fair, he has included some house projects...not that any of them have gotten done yet.

To get in on the action, I decided to sit down with Morgan and come up with a few ideas together. Not surprisingly, the lists were almost identical (apparently, the 4 year old brain can only hold so many original ideas). However, on this list, Morgan took the liberty to not only add items, but to start scratching out the activities she didn't want to do, primarily the swimming lessons I had recently signed her up for.

In an attempt to redeem herself, Morgan said, "Mom, let's add some things to the list that you like to do!" Just as I raised my pen to add "movies" and "gardening" to the list, she excitedly started jumping up and down, "I know, I know!!!  Drinking beer and wine! You love to do those things!"

Girl, it's a damn good thing your dad's the one staying home with you this summer. Otherwise, I'd be teaching you how to make martinis.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Through The Woods

We have camped my entire life, everything from late night trips to the outhouse to spending day after day trying to find the "perfect" stick to take home as a souvenir. To this day, my parents still have three hunter green sleeping bags, one for each of us kids. The zippers may be broken, the pattern of geese that lined the inside well faded, but they still have them.

Camping is an institution in my family. So much so that we actually celebrated Morgan's first birthday while on a camping trip. We have taken Morgan into the woods since before she could walk, trying to instill in her both a love and respect for nature. Each year, we plan a trip with my family; a few days of bacon over cast iron, a few nights under the stars.

Although the trips are never long enough, they are always monumental. We may fight, we may laugh, but we will ALWAYS end the trip with epic memories to share around the next campfire. Just ask my mom about the time she almost got gored by a buffalo or the time a seagull pooped on both my dad and my sister at Old Faithful...on the same day.

I should not have been surprised with Morgan's birthday card for my mom this year. When I asked Morgan to draw a picture, this is what she put together: "Mom, can you see? It's me and Grandma camping in her trailer in the nighttime!" In that moment, I knew. Camping is already just as much a part of Morgan's life as it is mine. It's not what we do, it's who we are.

Happy Birthday, Mom. Pack your bags, it's almost time for our trip this summer. You've got the next generation of campers waiting for her s'mores-

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Shower Power

I am having some trauma these days...fine, a lot of trauma. The fact that my header this month is a photo I took three years ago should tell you that at least one person in our house is having a little trouble with the fact that Morgan is starting kindergarten this fall. So I have decided to spend the summer trying to relive all of Morgan's "firsts" -- because that is totally emotionally healthy.  Okay, fine, not really. But I did pull out her old kiddie pool yesterday and couldn't help but notice some striking similarities among the photos:
2010 (first time in a pool):

2013 (one week into actual swimming lessons):

In three years, the only real difference in the pictures of her with her face in the water is that in 2010, she was in the process of falling over face first, while much of yesterday consisted of Morgan violently thrusting her head into three inches of water, making me count while she held her breath, and then forcing me to congratulate her on learning how to "swim" -- baby steps.

This post isn't really about Morgan learning how to swim. It's about how to only marginally supervise your child while cleaning out the garage. Because David's brother is a professional organizer, I decided it was high time we quit bringing shame to the family. My goal was to pull everything out of the garage and decide what would stay and what would go. That alone took us all day. Not surprisingly, Morgan was no help. As soon as I put something of hers in the pile, she immediately began explaining to me how much she loved the item and how she still needed to use it.

Exhibit A: her old camping highchair. She actually asked me if she could eat lunch in it. Instead, I told her to get her swimming suit on and I would get the hose so she could rinse it off before we donated it. Within a matter of minutes, Morgan decided we needed to turn our front yard into an outdoor shower. We're classy. The neighbors love us. 




Six hours later, when the novelty finally wore off, Morgan thought she would practice a little water safety. Never mind the fact our yard was a swamp and there wasn't actually any water left in the pool.

As we were putting things away, Morgan generously offered "You know, Mom. I can help you learn how to swim anytime." You bet, kiddo. Right after I let you teach me how to drive.