Morning Routine

Over the course of Claire’s kindergarten year, we have polished the morning, off-to-school routine. ¬†The challenge is to always get Molly and Claire dressed, fed, packed, and in the car by no later than 7:30 every school day. ¬†Before kindergarten, we were spoiled by a completely flexible morning schedule. ¬†The only time constraint was for me to get back home in time for any morning meetings, and those rarely started before 9:00 am. ¬†It also a general matter of time being precious and me wanted to get the day going. ¬†With kindergarten, we have no such flexibility. ¬†We always have a 7:30 am deadline!

This routine evolved over time, but here is what we ended out with by the end of the school year.  This is partially interesting because a couple of minutes literally can make or break the routine.  It is hard to recover from a 5-minute distraction, and Kit will attest that I do not take well to any unexpected deviation from the routine.

6:20 My alarm goes off

6:25 I get up, get dressed, brush teeth, hopefully shave

6:35 I wake Claire up, carry her downstairs (still half asleep), and put her on the sofa.  This is her alarm + snooze time.  I try not to wake up Molly just yet.  I get her some breakfast, normally cereal and milk, maybe some bacon and/or fruit as well on a good day.  Also, usually a Claratin. We turn on a TV show to help wake Claire up.

6:40 I put food in Muffin’s bowl and top off her water. ¬†While Claire is eating breakfast, I go back upstairs, give Muffin her incontinence pill, and let (or, force) her out.

6:45 Back downstairs to check on Claire and get Molly’s breakfast ready. ¬†Molly always has a whole grain mini-bagel with cream cheese, whole milk, and Jimmy Dean sausage crumbles. ¬†Plus¬†maybe some bacon and/or fruit as well on a good day.

6:55 Back upstairs to let Muffin back in, who by now is scratching on the back door.  Then I get Molly up, a new diaper, and dressed.  Then downstairs together.

7:05 Start Molly on breakfast. ¬†I like to have breakfast ready before she comes down so I can put her straight in her eating chair. ¬†Otherwise she tends to get distracted by something and won’t focus on eating. ¬†Tell Claire it’s time to get dressed.

7:10 Ice Claire’s lunch bag and grab Molly’s lunch box (Molly can use a refrigerator at school; Claire cannot). ¬†Get lunches and any other random school items for the day (paperwork, swim suits, diaper refills, library books, etc.) together and hopefully out to the car.

7:15 Put shoes on Molly, give her her nose spray, and do her hair. ¬†Usually Kit does Molly’s hair. ¬†Let Molly keep eating.

7:20 Make sure Claire is dressed (usually she is, but sometimes needs a gentle reminder).  Make sure Claire has on her shoes and has brushed her hair too.  Also reminder her, if necessary, to take her dishes into the kitchen.  She likes to save these tasks for the very last minute.

7:25 Move everyone towards the car.  If we start at 7:25, we are usually pulling out of the driveway by 7:30.

The first bell at Claire’s school is at 7:40. ¬†This gives us just enough time to get there, park, and walk to the room. ¬†If we run behind on time, we have to do “Circle Drive” drop off to make up time, which means Claire hops out of the car and goes into school by herself. ¬†She really prefers for Molly and I to walk in with her, so Circle Drive is an ever-present incentive to get going on time.

This routine took some work to get in place early in the year, and some occasional nagging to keep on track throughout the year, but mostly it ran on autopilot once established. ¬†This is such an engrained routine that Claire wakes up at 6:30 or earlier even on the weekends unless she’s completely exhausted, in which case she might sleep in until 6:45 or 7:00 at the latest. ¬†I keep telling her to sleep in, but 7:00 is the very best she can do. ¬†She always wants to get up and hang out before everyone else wakes up!

Last Day of Kindergarten!

It does not seem so long ago that Claire started kindergarten. ¬†Today, Claire successfully completed kindergarten. ¬†Her final report card indicated that she has officially been promoted to first grade. ¬†She also received a “Certificate of Commended Attendance” for showing up most of the time. ¬† I am happy to say that Claire was not late to school once all year, and our morning off-to-school routine was “spit spot”. ¬†It became such a solid routine that I could (and sort of did) go through it in my sleep.

The last month of school has been full of fun-themed days such as¬†Friendship Note Day, Water Day, Pajama Day, Pillow and Movie Day, Bubble Day, and No Shoes Day, to name a few. ¬†In fact, there were only two “normal” days in all of May. ¬†Totday, the last day of school, was Game Day. ¬†The kids got to bring in non-electronic games to play with their friends all day. ¬†Claire brought in Zingo, Inside Game Daywhich is sort of a fun, kid’s bingo. ¬†We saw at least two other kindergarteners carrying the same game into school today. ¬†Kit has the week off, so we were all able to take Claire to school together. ¬†When we dropped Claire off to school, all the chairs tables were cleared to the side of the room to make space for games. ¬†Claire told us later that they really just played games all day. ¬†They took a lunch break, but no recess. ¬†This was a serious day of playing.

This was a good if sometimes bumpy school year for Claire.  She learned a whole lot, including a solid start on reading, writing, and math.  But not just that; she also gained some maturity this year, such as a better ability to focus and listen to directions.  There was also a slightly confusing monkey bar incident where Claire was apparently unkind to another student and even had to visit the principal.  Claire learned a lot about being sensitive to others from this incident.  Luckily, this was not quite as serious of a situation as we thought it was at first.  At first, we had bad information and thought Claire might be asked to leave the school!

Claire seemed to really enjoy kindergarten, and never complained about it or asked to stay home from school.  She would clearly have missed playing with her friends too much.  Her enthusiasm only flagged early in the year when she had a little trouble adjusting to her new school.  Claire also learned to love Extend-a-Care after school.  She seems to have figured out that Extend-a-Care is just a big play date every day after school.  She made some good Extend-a-Care friends, had lots of extra outdoor play time compared to coming home, watched almost no TV on weekdays (no time), and even started Girl Scouts.

We went to pick up Claire early from Extend-a-care, around 3:00, on the last day so she would not be the last, lonely kid at school.  When we got there, there were lots of kids, and Claire asked to stay at school a while longer so that she could do the water balloon fights and make sundaes.  So Kit and I went back home for a couple of hours to let her have her final fun at school!

The rest of the evening featured melted frozen yogurt and a shared bath in which Molly peed in the water. ¬†Claire calmly noted that yes, the water did turn yellow, and kept playing. ¬†We had to get them both out quickly and sort of sponge-bathe them. ¬†Oddly enough, that was the first — and now clearly the last — time that happened all school year.


Mucus and Ketchup

We had gone out to Poke-e-Jo’s Barbecue for dinner, where Molly enjoyed chicken tenders with ketchup — lots of ketchup, as always. ¬†She also had a runny nose, and by the time we drove home, her face was covered in both mucus and ketchup. ¬†Even Molly thought it was gross and funny. ¬†I did not get a picture of her face at the time, since I was busy wiping it down, but here is Molly reviewing the day with us at bedtime.

Speaking of ketchup, Molly is still crazy about it.  It helps almost any food go down.  Apples?  Yes.  Raisins?  Yes.  Cheerios?  Of course.  And why not dip your macaroni and cheese in it?  That last one almost made even me gag.  But it gets the food down, and Molly is growing, so she gets to figure out later that this is gross.

Diving in with her clothes on

Claire is just wrapping up her very successful swim lessons. At her last class, the kids were told to wear regular clothes over their swimsuits for the “clothesline test”. The idea is to simulate accidentally falling into the water in full clothing and being able to get back to safety.

Claire, never shrinking from a challenge, chose to jump in wearing a long-sleeve shirt and skirt over her swimsuit. She was able to extra herself from the water with ease, which would definitely not have happened before this class. Way to go Elmer Swim School!

Angry Birds

Angry Birds
The birds want their eggs back from those mean pigs!

After a couple of years of playing with mildly entertaining video games and websites, Claire has now gotten into her first real game. ¬†Her favorite game is everyone else’s favorite at the moment: Angry Birds! ¬†This is a great action/puzzle ¬†game that is often pretty challenging. ¬†We were a little hesitant to let Claire get “into” video games, but I think there are some good things about it. ¬†Angry Birds clearly requires logical reasoning and lots of experimentation. ¬†It also requires patience and persistence, which, in my opinion, are just as important as reading/writing/math. ¬†Personally, I would rather see Claire attacking a tough Angry Birds level than passively watching TV. ¬†Both need to be in moderation, of course.

Claire doesn’t get a whole lot of time to play. ¬†She squeezes in a little time between school, family time, errands, play dates, etc. ¬†She mostly plays in the car when I’m driving her to pick up Molly after school. ¬†Once we pick up Molly, I have to reclaim my phone. ¬†The two girls tend to swap toys and things in the back seat, and I do not want my precious iPhone in Molly’s hands — or mouth, or thrown on the ground — as tends to happen. Claire occasionally plays at home too, but she can’t wander around with my phone or give it to Molly. ¬†Yes,¬†I’m pretty protective of my phone. ¬†I’m trying to nudge her into the free web version.

Angry Birds - 3 stars!
Claire is always proud of her 3-star victories

Claire’s latest career plans

As part of our new bedtime chats, I asked Claire what she wanted to be when she grew up, and she said, “You know, I always wanted to be a fire fighter. ¬†But my new number one choice is…”, she then paused for effect and then whispered, “teacher! ¬†And my second choice is artist.” ¬†Those seem like great choices!

Claire has¬†mentioned wanting to be a teacher in the past. ¬†She is great with Molly’s classmates when we pick up Molly at school, often pausing and taking time to help one of the toddlers with something or just play with them. ¬†Sometimes she likes to try to teach Molly stuff like writing, as in “Molly, watch. ¬†Here is how you draw an A…” ¬†Despite Molly’s lack of interest and focus, being a toddler and all, Claire persists patiently and normally without getting frustrated, but eventually has to give up as Molly wanders off to go mess with something else.

On the artist front… Claire tells me that she is the second best artist in her kindergarten class. ¬†Irene is definitely the best artist, Claire says, no contest. ¬†But Claire tells me that she has a reputation around the classroom as the second best artist after Irene. ¬†We really love Claire’s art, full of details and imagination. ¬†Being her parents and all, we may be¬†positively biased. ¬†But I will say that Claire does seem to buckle down and really focus on drawing for extended periods better than she does any other activity, except maybe playing¬†Angry Birds.

(Just after I wrote this post, to reiterate her point, Claire brought the following drawing home from school…)

I would like to be an artist...
"I would like to be an artist. Because I am very good at art."

Favorite Books #4

Here is the latest update in the ongoing favorite books series…

The Cat in the Hat
The Cat in the Hat

Molly has been enjoying the classics.  She went through a big Cat in the Hat phase.  This one is really fun to read if you add the full dramatic flair, with silly voices and dramatic pauses.  It also takes a long time to read if you do it right, so we often have to skip over the “middle bit”, i.e. the middle 1/3 of the book, since this book tends to get Molly late to bed.

Harry the Dirty Dog
Harry the Dirty Dog

Molly has also been enjoying Harry the Dirty Dog.  She likes this one in particular because the book itself was Kit’s when she was a little girl.  When Kit first told Molly that the book had been hers when she was small, Molly got a really surprised look on her face, sort of a “Holy s**t!” look, as Kit tells me.  Molly may have been taken aback that Kit was ever a little girl.  We have another, newer copy of this book too, and Molly insists that one was my book when I was little.  This is actually not true, and I have told Molly that it was not my book, but Molly shrugs this news off.  It was my book according to her view of the world.

Kit normally reads Molly her bedtime story, so she might have more to add.  Molly also been enjoying Ladybug Girl at the Beach, which was actually a gift to Claire from her aunt Betsy.  Claire read it once or twice and moved on, but Molly really loves this story about a girl playing around at the beach with her dog and family and conquering her fear of the water.

Claire has been mostly checking out non-fiction animal books from the school library.  We covered lions for a while, thanks to the movie The Lion King, which made lions look cute and fun.  But Claire has turned away from lions a bit lately after realizing that they are really more ferocious and dangerous than cute.  “I don’t like lions any more.  They’re mean and gross.”, I think she said.  This realization came after she saw a picture of a lion holding a dead, limp animal in its bloody mouth.  Claire has since then been focusing on dolphins, which really are cute and sweet.  They save people’s lives and fight sharks, which really is cool.

We also try to get Claire to read her own lithe books that she takes home from school as reading assignments.  Claire is usually too tired to read on her own, though, and just can’t seem to focus at the late hour right before bed.  So we are trying to find another time for her to read to us, but it is tough to find the time on a weekday.

Recently, Claire has come up with a new idea for bedtime stories.  Instead of a story, she said the other night, “why don’t we just cuddle and talk for a while?”  Sure, why not?  The whole idea is just to help her relax and top off the day before going to bed.  The first night she said, “What should we talk about?  Moats?”  We had been talking about moats, her idea, for a few days.  We had mostly exhausted the topic, but we quickly reviewed our knowledge of moats, and then went on to Q&A.  We covered each other’s favorite colors and a couple of other basics.  Among other things, we covered Claire’s latest career plans.

Besides Q&A, Claire decided that we should make up stories to tell each other.  Each night she would make up a story such as “Elizabeth and the magic sock” or “Lilly and the magic jellybean”.  These stories are cute but tend to ramble on and go in circles for quite a while, either because she cannot figure out how to end the story or because she is trying to put off bedtime, or probably a little bit of both.  (Claire is also writing and illustrating a book called “Candy Land”, or “Kandi Land” as she has written it with her growing writing skills.)  After Claire’s story, Kit or I have to make up a story.  Mine usually end up with pirates on a ship, or talking food, for some reason.  And mine tend to ramble on too because it’s actually really hard to find a good conclusion to a story that you’re just making up on the spot.  Really hard.  I kind of want to go back to reading someone else’s stories!

The Day of Urine

I was fortunate enough to miss the following series of events since I was off working hard on my side project. ¬†But from Kit’s description, here is what I am to understand Kit and her parents endured this Saturday…

At some point during the usual Saturday morning hubbub of getting the girls fed and Claire off to swimming class, our dog Muffin slipped into the guest room, where Kits parents were staying, and peed all over the bed.  So they got that cleaned up and started a quick load of laundry for all the urine-soaked sheets and bedding.  The comforter, which was new, had to be sent off to dry cleaning.

The morning’s plan was to take the girls to a birthday party directly after swimming. ¬†The party involved water balloons, so they would need to wear swimsuits and, in Molly’s case, a swim diaper. ¬†So Molly, who had been playing outside in the warm morning sun, and accordingly drinking a lot of water, was wearing a swim diaper when she stared to yell, “Pee! ¬†Pee! ¬†My leg! ¬†My leeeeeg!” ¬†And sure enough, urine was running down her leg and on the floor, apparently due to both the volume of water consumed that morning and the peculiarity of the swim diaper. ¬†Kit picked up Molly to help clean her up and then discovered that Molly’s urine had spread all over her own pants. ¬†Another load of laundry was started, and Molly received a fresh swim diaper.

Swimming and the birthday party went fine until the very end of the party. ¬†Kit had been trying to gather up both girls to leave at the end of the party, a process which can take some time to get both¬†girls off to the car at the same time. ¬†Finally when walking out the gate, Molly’s face appeared stricken, and sure enough, there was a little trail of pee on the ground around here. ¬†So it was back inside for another diaper and yes, at home, another load of laundry.

After started, checking, and changing laundry at home, Kit went upstairs and laid down in Claire’s bed to get a few minutes of peace. ¬†I am not sure why she laid down in Claire’s bed — maybe she was too tired to make it all the way back to our bedroom. ¬†Either way, you might guess now what Kit discovered in Claire’s bed. ¬†Yes, dog urine. ¬†Muffin struck again, this time at Claire’s bed. ¬†Surely Muffin skipped peeing on our own bed only because it was too high for her Muffin to jump onto. ¬†And another load of laundry was started.

Claire’s bed was not dry of urine and bleach in time for bed, so she had to sleep in our bed, which may have been a nice bonus for Claire. ¬†There was no bonus for anyone else. ¬†Muffin may have made her point, if only we knew what it was. ¬†We may never know.