What She Did on Spring Break

It’s been a busy week for my daughter.  It’s her Spring Break.

It began with a school-wide Fun Run on the Friday before. Having never run anything like that before, she was rather nervous.  She wasn’t the only one.  Her entire class, after walking out to the field where there was a tent for them for stretching and instructions, immediately shot off running.  A few minutes later, order was restored to the Kindergarten universe.  She ended up running far more laps then she expected.

The next day, she flew to Grandma’s, or at least to an airport near Grandma.  She spent five days thrilling Grandma with everything she did. She had a pretty good time as well.

Upon her return, she had lessons in swimming, horse back riding, and guitar.  She has become quite a good swimmer and, more important to us, water safe.  Her horse back riding is a newer experience for her.  Up on a horse, she simultaneously looks so little, yet quite comfortable.  A day later she had her second guitar lesson.  Still too soon to tell much, but early signs are positive.

Near the end of the week, one of her aunts came to town for Easter weekend.  Like most of her extended family, her aunt spoils her with gifts and attention.  A great time was had by all.  Special events events included a visit to a strawberry farm to pick fresh berries.  While the season is early, we still managed to bring home 15 pounds.  This morning, we found out what the Easter Bunny brought during an Easter egg hunt in the front yard.

Tomorrow the routine of school returns.  She’s had a great week, but is ready to return to her regular schedule.  Routine or special occasion, she manages to enjoy almost everything she does.  And that makes it all the more enjoyable for Mommy and Daddy.

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How Does She Know?

There is an old joke about the greatest invention ever.  After several worthy examples, it is suggested that the thermos bottle is the greatest ever.  When asked why, the response given is “When it’s filled hot, it stays hot and when it’s filled cold, it stays cold.  How do it know?”

I’m sure the joke works much better when spoken with perfect comic timing.  It loses something in my written words.

Anyway, yesterday, on the way to the bookstore, my daughter and I stopped at her favorite Chinese restaurant.  My five year old guides the hostess away from a booth underneath a television to one what has a much better view.  She took the seat with her back to the television, then directs me to the other seat with the announcement that it is the best seat for Daddy to watch basketball.

Of course, we are in the middle of March Madness.  Of course, she can see the game on the screen.  Of course, my daughter is one sharp cookie.   Those are the easy and obvious parts.  It’s the initiative she takes, both with the hostess and with me, that impresses me.

So “how does she know” how wonderful such a gesture makes her Daddy feel?  <smile>

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A Single Sweet Sound to Sum It Up

Returning home from a trip recently, I heard it when I pulled my car into the garage.  Just last week, visiting my daughter’s classroom – planned with her teacher, unknown to her, I heard it again.  If truth be told, I hear it regularly.  But there is no such thing as too much in this case.

There are many, many rewards for fatherhood:

  • Seeing the joy and sense of accomplishment on my daughter’s face when she does something for the first time,
  • The hugs and kisses,
  • The I-love-you-Daddy greetings,
  • The chuckles and laughter of a child,
  • The smiles and other facial expressions unabashedly shared

When my wife was pregnant, we were told repeatedly and enthusiastically that parenthood would be rewarding and fulfilling.  I can say without reservation they were absolutely right.

What did I hear after the garage door opened when I pulled in and after I stepped into a Kindergarten classroom with 20 something sets of eyes turning around to see who had just entered their domain?

First of all, it’s what I saw:  an almost 4 foot tall girl, arms extended wide open, running full speed ahead at me, smiling ear to ear, eyes sparkling with delight and excitement.  Then, it’s what I heard in a child’s joyous voice:

Daaddddyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!

There is nothing better;  nor is there anything like it.

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Gardening Girls

My daughter’s elementary school has a couple of interior green space courtyards that appear, to us, to be under-utilized.  Several weeks ago, my wife volunteered to put in a vegetable garden to give the kindergartners a hands on view of vegetables. 

If you have seen chef Jamie Oliver and his Food Revolution series, you may be aware how poor the American diet is.  As food has become more processed and full of chemical additives, major increases in obesity and diabetes have occured and continue to increase.  Ten percent of our collective health care bill is spent on obesity today.  It will soon double.  For more information, check out http://www.jamieoliver.com/foundation/jamies-food-revolution/.

Jamie has gone into countless classrooms with a variety of fruits and vegetables, which the majority of the children cannot identify.  They don’t know what a potato is, but they do recognize french fries.  While I cannot speak for all of my wife’s motivation in offering to put in a vegetable garden, I can say improving diets is central to her.  Teaching children about foods is one small step.

Anyway, the vegetable gardrens were installed this week and the kids got to plant the seeds on Friday.  My wife reports that the kids were wild with enthusiasm.  At the end of the day, she served the same raw vegetables that the kids planted as seeds.  Somewhat surprisingly, they asked for seconds and thirds.  Raw carrots were the overall favorite.

Now that the veggies have been planted, the plan is to watch their progress over the rest of the school year.  The vegetables were chosen in part to be harvestable before the end of the school year.  At that time, our daughter and her classmates will get to enjoy the fruits of their labors.

I am so proud of my gardening girls.  You can become a gardening girl or guy too.

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A Rose by any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet

My daughter had a homework assignment that involved writing down the names of family members and determining which names had the fewest and most vowels.  Pretty simple, eh?  Perhaps not so simple, when Daddy complicates it a bit.

Moving a bit away from the assignment, somehow I ended up writing down both my daughter’s and my wife’s names, including the multiple ways they could be spelled.  Both of them have names that are commonly spelled four or five different ways.

She smiled and pointed at the spellings she recognized.  “Daddy, now tell me what those other words are.” I said names can sometimes be spelled different ways.  “No, Daddy.  What are they?”  I said her name five times, pointing to each of the different spellings.  Almost in tears, she asked, “No, what are those words?”

Oooooppps.  I kept at it, only upsetting my daughter more.

I called her mother to get bailed out.  My wise wife said – on speaker – that her name did not have five spellings, rather there are five different names that sound alike.  She used ‘sea’ and ‘see’ as examples.  My daughter was instantly reassured that her name was unique and uniquely spelled.  Her own individuality reaffirmed, she was her usual self.

While a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, people names may not.  I won’t be forgetting the individuality of each person any time soon.

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Grandma

Grandma visited us last week. It’s always a well-appreciated special treat when my daughter and mother get together, either here or there.  There – a thousand miles away – has become a bit more tricky since my daughter is now in school.

What we did together was both simple and straightforward as well as rich and rewarding.  Meals in and meals out.  Walks in the neighborhood.  A trip to the museum.  Working on puzzles.  Sitting on the porch together.  Reading together at bedtime.  Pizza and movie night.

While it’s easy to see – a reward for us – how special Grandma is to our daughter, I get to appreciate these visits on a personal level as well.  My mother, my wife and my daughter all together at one time under one roof warms my heart.

Two years ago, for Mother’s Day, my presents to my mother and my wife were framed photographs taken while we were together that weekend.  Each of them got to chose their picture.  My wife’s choice sits in our living room, affording me the chance to savor it every day.  As lovely as that picture is, it’s is so much better live, in 3D, and living color.  As I’ve said many times before, I am so very lucky.

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Imitation and Keeping Up

Last weekend, our daughter, while out walking the dogs in a nearby park, saw another girl around her age riding her bike, quite well, in fact.  This prompted our daughter to want to get her bike out and and start riding again.

Since the last time she had ridden her bike was last summer, the tires needed some air and the helmet strap needed a bit of an adjustment.  Those tasks completed, she was quickly back in the saddle again, literally and figuratively.

The other little girl was off and riding, so our daughter wanted to do the same for herself.  Initially, she was a bit wobbly and uncertain of herself, braking constantly.  Then her learning curve shifted into a higher gear and she was off.  During the course of last weekend, she probably rode 5 or six times, which might have been as much as she did all of last summer.

She’s still got a ways to go, but is on the right path, a path that she herself is eager to pursue.  Last summer it took some cajoling to get her on her bike; now she pleads to be able to ride again… and again.

Watching our daughter grow up is a great treat for us.  The little things like mastering a new biking skill or sounding out a new word correctly for the first time are so rewarding – for daughter and Daddy alike – and add up to something far greater.  Lao-tzu said, over 2 1/2 millennia ago, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with single step.”  Indeed it does.

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Two Cents Worth

Our daughter, sometimes known as the little boss, likes to make her opinions known.

The pictured book above is a collection of rental properties belonging to the National Trust in the United Kingdom.  When we travel, either in the United States or overseas, our preference is to rent a home or apartment instead of staying at a hotel.  We find that such accommodations are more comfortable and cheaper than hotels.

We are trying to finalize a trip to the West Country in England – Dorset, Devon and Cornwall – next summer.  My wife ordered a a book of rental properties from the National Trust to give us more options.

Our daughter volunteered to provide us her two cents worth.  She marked with colored tabs her preferences for accommodations. As you can see from the picture above, she liked about 25 places.

She’s never been shy about expressing herself.  It’s something we’ve encouraged her to do. So we are quite pleased with how she’s developing.   It’s also nice to see her actively participating in her travels.

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Reading and Writing

Our kindergarten-aged daughter has been involved in the early stages of reading and writing for some time.  We’ve read to her virtually daily since she was a real wee one.

Until recently reading has meant our reading to her, not the other way around.  Writing has meant writing out the alphabet and a a few short words, copying more than comprehending.  All of that has changed.  The proverbial light bulb has gone off over her head.

While my wife was out of town at a conference last week, she sent us a floral arrangement made of fresh fruit – very cool by the way.  Our daughter took the card and by herself read the note – a bit slowly, but more surely as she went:  “[Daddy] and [Daughter], I love you!  Happy Valentine’s Day!  Love and kisses, Mommy”.

Her ability to sound out words – previously done for a word or two, never sentences or paragraphs – has also taken off.  Now she loves, except when she’s tired at the end of the day, to sound out words, either when reading or writing.  The above picture demonstrates her progress!

Progress is seldom linear.  Learning to read and write is no exception.  Our daughter has gotten a sense of the worlds reading can open up to her.  She is excited about and proud of her new abilities.  So are her parents!

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Hot Pink …

It’s no secret that our daughter is smitten with all things pink (and purple).  She has insisted on dressing herself for at least a couple of years.   More importantly, it’s the choosing of outfits over the actual dressing, although dressing is a close second.

The more color the better.  The more contrasts – perhaps you might say clashes – the better.  Given a choice, milk tastes better in a pink cup and digging in the garden is better with a pink-trimmed shovel.

Earlier this year, in a parent-teacher conference, her teacher asked my wife if everything was alright at home, since her wardrobe had recently seemed a bit drab for her.  It was typical of her classmates, but way dialed back for her.  We concluded that she must have gone through her entire wardrobe, saving the least pink, the most drab in her mind, until the end, which is what the teacher noticed.

Anyway, given her delight in pinkness, one of her aunts sent her some pink hot chocolate mix that turns pink from the hot water to get ready for Valentine’s Day.  She eagerly asked for it this morning.  My wife and I shuddered to think what chemicals were required to turn an eggshell white powder to pink.

After allowing the hot chocolate to cool a bit, she eagerly sipped it.  “Daddy, I don’t like it.”  Wow, a triumph of function (taste) over form (pink).  We don’t see that every day.

There you have it:  Hot Pink Chocolate… Yucccccckkkkk!

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