Simon Turns Nine: A Yearly Update
Today you are nine years old. I would be impressed by this except, as it seems, I've finally grown accustomed to you being a "big kid." You have had a great year. I've put together a list of highlights and photos so that you won't forget.
When you were eight, you...
1. Finally found a summer camp that you like (Camp Galileo)
2. Looked out from the top of the Empire State Building
3. Went glamping (glamorous camping) in Yosemite and swam in a pool surrounded by forest
4. Enjoyed your time on Cape Cod
5. Got a butterfly (palate expander) and then a retainer which is at the top or near the top of your list of terrifying experiences
6. Loved being a ninja for Halloween
7. Started kickboxing lessons
8. Continued swimming lessons
9. Learned to play the recorder
10. Found a theme park you actually enjoy (Lego Land)
11. Discovered geocaching (and thought it was worth the walking)
12. Tolerated Sea World
13. Played games with a man named Stryker
14. Enjoyed visits from your teacher (our neighbor)
15. Were thrilled by a visit from your Kagle cousins
16. Decided wearing shirts with words and pictures was desirable
17. Made holiday cookies with friends
18. Were amused by the activities at the Charles Dickens Christmas Faire
19. Made all sorts of creative things with duct tape
20. Discovered Minecraft and Scratch programming
21. Built a cardboard robot on wheels that carries a laser pointer
22. Made your own breakfasts
23. Enjoyed movie nights with friends, pizza, and dessert
24. Finished the game Portal 2 and imagined how cool it would be to have a portal in your bedroom
25. Created two games in Flash:
Play Simon's Ball Game
Play Simon's Maze Game
26. Had your first sleepover
27. Learned about electricity at the Museum of American Heritage
28. Enjoyed PG13 movies
29. Ordered a chocolate pie from the Kagle Kitchen to celebrate the first day of 3rd grade
30. Performed five magic tricks for your end of year project
31. Made sushi
32. Played the role of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in school
33. Searched for Easter eggs
34. Found the afikomen
35. Designed and desperately wanted to build full size complex robotic structures
36. Got into a fight in school (and I was secretly proud of you standing up for yourself)
37. Left the country
38. Fell in love with Mexico (especially the food, the cousins, and the swimming pool)
39. Swam, and swam, and swam, and swam, and swam at every opportunity
40. Enjoyed food (especially fondue, sushi, high tea, donuts, and restaurant deliveries)
41. Built and flew many paper airplanes
42. Decided that the swing set in the back yard wasn't actually fun
43. Received a principal's award for Fairness
44. Fought with and made up with your best friend multiple times
45. Covered your walls with pictures of funny cats and family photos
46. Learned to play tennis (and loved it)
47. Read child spy adventure books and the Percy Jackson collection
48. Argued with your brother
49. Loved all cats, everywhere - even the stuffed variety
50. Stood up for your brother when older boys hurt his feelings
51. Especially loved learning about the Palo Alto Baylands in school
52. Daydreamed a lot but only alone in your room
53. Almost always did all of your homework without being asked
54. Ate at Medieval Times and thought it was too cold and too loud but, after a while, it was fun
55. Comforted your brother whenever he was scared
56. Complained endlessly about being at Knott's Berry Farm
57. Learned all of your multiplication tables
58. Went to all of the Lego Build days
59. Enjoyed the creativity of Maker Faire
60. Were (and always will be) deeply loved
May you have a very happy birthday and an amazing tenth year!
Mama (Daddy and Adlai too)
June 15, 2012
Simon Turns Eight: A Yearly Update
Today you are eight!
Over the past year, you've grown significantly. At some point, your head crept past my shoulders and recently, you've have a great desire to pick me up. "Ha!", I tell you! Maybe I won't lose weight just so you can't start carrying me around the house. Your growth is more than just in height. We hold hands. We don't hold hands. We snuggle. We don't snuggle. You tell me your innermost thoughts. You spend hours wanting to be alone in your room. You've started to show signs of pre-pubescent angst especially when it comes to that ONE GIRL. I will leave the subject alone. I'm overjoyed that you share your feelings with me and I don't want you to stop.
Your eighth year began with a camping trip to Big Basin. For dinner we started a blazing fire over which we held hot dogs on sticks until their skins bubbled. For dessert there were roasted marshmallows and s'mores with a side of campfire songs and not-so-spooky stories. We spent the night in a very rustic tent cabin and there were real, actual mice running around on the floor! In the morning we cooked Hamburger Helper Lasagna over a propane stove and went for a brief hike before returning to civilization. The following weekend we had a party at the park with water balloons, a dinosaur dig in the sand, and a visit from an old fashioned ice cream truck.
Following your seventh birthday, you spent the Summer in four one-week day camps, three of which were through the YMCA. You HATED these camps Monday through Wednesday, warmed up on Thursday, and were comfortable and happy by Friday. We're not doing that again. You like working in small groups and having a camp counselor who knows you and, unfortunately, that was not part of your YMCA experience.
This was the year you learned how to ride your bike without training wheels, overcame your fear of the deep end of the pool, excelled at swimming laps using a variety of strokes, turned your first-grade scrawls into beautiful penmanship, and surprised your parents by playing an improvised solo on the marimba at the school concert in front of lots and lots of people.
In fact, there were a lot of very good times this year. For the Fourth of July, we watched the fireworks sail over Shoreline Amphitheater from the comfort of our picnic blanket. In August, we spent a week swimming and relaxing in Cape Cod. You enjoyed "Glamping" (Glamorous Camping) in September (no mice), hosted a Halloween party in October, and spent a week in Hawaii over Thanksgiving wherein you rarely left the pool. December brought Hanukkah, celebrated at home with candles, latkes, and the Feefadders, and Christmas, spent playing, eating, and slumbering with our Sacramento family. For the New Year, we drove up to Tahoe to stay with friends and visit ice and snow, and, in February and early March, we celebrated an all-Kagle gathering with a Disney Cruise through the Caribbean followed by a few days at Disney parks in Orlando, Florida. In April came Passover which we celebrated with the Feefadders and Paul and Micheline, followed by Grammy's visit for Spring Break. Finally, it was May again with the amazing Maker Faire, your first standardized tests ("so boring!") and "focused learning goal" presentations at school - your goal for the year was to "build a robot" so you built three.
Throughout the year we continued having friends over once a week for "movie night" and you and Daddy started the new traditions of biking to the doughnut store on Sundays and visiting the Lego store once a month for their special Lego Day build.
You claim to hate school, especially after a fabulous weekend, but you take it very seriously and are self-motivated. You often worry about not doing as well as the others in your class. This is when I want a time machine and the ability to import some of the kids I went to school with and let you compare yourself to "normal." You've had between one to three hours of homework Mondays thru Thursdays which left little time to do anything else during the week, but you insist on following directions and not leaving anything but your Mandarin lesson for the weekend. You only complained about this situation on Mondays when you had to write an original story to edit over the rest of the week. Although writing is often painful for you, nothing makes you feel better about yourself than completing a good story. Math, now that is the challenge; a few times this year we have had full shouting matches over math. You refuse help; your "ancient" parents couldn't possibly know how to find the perimeter of a rectangle.
You loved your teacher, Ms. Cheng, and you liked all of your classmates. You prefer to have one close friend over many ancillary friendships, and sometimes that leaves you feeling left out. Unfortunately, you stopped wanting to play ball during recess and lunch which sidelined you even further. I think you actually like playing ball - it's the competitive nature of the boys in the game that gets you down. You HATE anything competitive. Your overdeveloped sense of empathy requires that everyone be a winner and take turns and share and never tease or embarrass others. I've promised that these kids will feel the same way some day. I haven't mentioned that you have a long time to wait before that happens.
This year you were given awards for being tardy free, improving your Mandarin, and showing trustworthiness. You have matured a great deal in this area. It's not that you were ever untrustworthy but now we can usually rely on you to bring home your jacket, your hat, your lunch box, to turn in your homework, to brush your teeth, and to get ready for school without being asked. If only we could convince you to do such a good job with washing your hands. Your class has had some horrid viruses spread around this year and you were unlucky enough to come down with almost all of them.
Although you still aspire to be a scientist, I think you are starting to realize that your real interests lie in the creative arts. You like to come up with ideas and design things. You've been designing "blueprints" for robots all year long. You've written a few good stories just for fun and you wrote an essay as a gift to Daddy for his birthday. You still like loud music and dance exuberantly when no one is watching. After swim lessons, we often sit in front of our house in the car and sing loudly to the radio. This is one of my favorite times of the week. You would be horrified if anyone but your immediate family witnessed this side of you but I am thrilled that is it there and that you will share it with me.
Simon, at age eight, you are a day dreamer, a chocolate lover, a Kim Possible watcher, an Alex Rider reader, a LOL-Cat enthusiast, a sushi eater, an imaginary kung-fu fighter, a patient and caring big brother, and the nicest kid I know.
May you have a very happy birthday and an amazing ninth year.
Mama (Daddy and Adlai too)
June 15, 2011
Simon Turns Seven: A Yearly Update
Today you are seven!
Before we head off to a cabin in the woods to celebrate the day, let's walk back in time to recapture your seventh year.
It started out simple enough. You attended a few one-week day camps with friends: Spy Camp, Aviation Camp, and Art Camp. You were nervous and resisted attending, but once you were there you absolutely loved every minute of them. For the 4th of July, Grammy visited Mountain View and watched the fireworks sail over the Shoreline Golf Course with friends and snacks. We lost Adlai for a bit and then Grammy disappeared after him but, heck, you had cookies and Calvin. I'm not even sure you noticed.
In August, you flew with Daddy and Adlai to New York for a few days to visit Grandma Whee, the Feefadders, an enormous avocado, and a flaming pupu platter. You then drove through four states, ending in Cape Cod, where you fell asleep, woke up, and picked me up at the airport. We spent the remainder of the week eating fried seafood, getting sandy and wet, and listening carefully for the jingle of the ice cream truck. It was while having dinner with the Feefadders in Cape Cod that we learned your kindergarten teacher had been promoted to first grade right along with you! You were so relieved to have the same teacher. The stress of entering first grade completely melted away and we were able to enjoy the remainder of the summer in peace.
Well, peace until you started school. The first month or so of school you were overwhelmed by the sheer length of the day. And then there was real math and real homework. And then it seemed all of your classmates were reading above your level (because they were). You hated the food we bought you through the hot lunch program and you were not a fan of working in groups with bossy girls who constantly told you "You're doing it wrong! You're doing it wrong!". You had a hard time adjusting to these additional stresses. You stopped eating. You lost a lot of weight. You were miserable. But you didn't give up.
You hung mathematical equations from your bedroom ceiling. You focused on your homework and, even though you found it difficult and frustrating and sometimes crumpled the assignments into balls and tossed them across the room, you always got the work done and you did it well. You practiced reading every night. You wrote your letters over and over and over and over again. You quizzed us on addition and subtraction, multiplication and division day and night. You lamented that college was so gosh darn far away. Couldn't you just leave these ridiculously immature first graders behind and concentrate on REAL SCIENCE?
We took you to Disneyland in mid-November and you found the idea of lines, rides, and dark and loud shows overwhelming. The only part of the vacation you wanted anything to do with was the swimming pool at the hotel. And so we swam. And we swam. And we swam. After swimming we did more swimming. And then some T.V. watching. And then we bought junk food and ate it. You may remember this as a great vacation. Your dad and I, having purchased several days of enormously expensive tickets to the theme park attached to the hotel, found it deeply frustrating.
Luckily, by Thanksgiving, we were able to find you some relief. Not coincidentally, you also started reading well enough that you caught up with the more advanced kids in your class. As we drove down the freeway you read the signs. One day you asked me: "What's a Hyatt?" and I knew reading had finally clicked.
Reading and writing
We stayed close to home for the winter holidays - scheduling playdates and visiting with California family. For mid-winter break, we flew to Seattle for your cousin Devon's wedding which allowed you to see all six of your cousins from both sides of your family in the very same day. We stayed in the Seattle area for most of that week enjoying the snow, an indoor water park, and an all Kagle-boy festival. It was the BEST. VACATION. EVER! For a week after we returned, you and Adlai were down in the dumps. Oh how you wish you could see those Kagle cousins more often.
It was also late in the year when you started to develop deeper friendships. You, Steven, Andreas, and David started a sleuthing business of some sort. For a while there you brought home "clues" from school -- what the untrained eye might call bags of garbage you found on the playground -- and "maps" that you had drawn with your buddies. We've had a lot of playdates this year but not with these new school friends. As it turns out, your dad and I have, so far, only befriended the parents of the girls in your class. Historically, you have had an equally good time with boys and girls but, lately, the girls have been acting more, well, "girly". At one recent playdate a female friend wanted to play "house" and at another playdate there was ribbon dancing. You are completely confounded by this behavior. It sets you off your guard. Why would anyone in their right mind gently twirl or pretend to do housework when they could just as easily ram themselves into a tower of pillows, play kick the ball over the roof, or smash grapefruit against the windows? I worry that the days of our playdates with girls from school are numbered.
Luckily there is still movie night! We've continued the tradition of having friends over for pizza and a movie every Saturday all year. We all look forward to movie nights. Your dad and I get the company of adult friends and you get the pleasure of relaxing with buddies. Your favorite movie this year was G-force. It appeals to the slapstick animal-loving inventor in you.
Your personal learning goal for the year was to "Get better in science" so we spent as much time as we could in the spring taking you to museums, reading to you about physics, working on science experiments and enjoying NPR Science Fridays. Grammy bought you a subscription to Popular Science which you mull over in your room all by yourself. You haven't picked a favorite science subject yet - you are fascinated by them all. You especially liked a physics book and a book about inventing and you LOVE weather. It's been an odd weather year - stormy in June - and your analysis of cloud formations and potential weather patterns has come in handy. If a tornado would just stop by, life would be perfect.
It was also late in this year that your physical coordination finally started to kick in. You are strong and quick and less apt to trip over your own feet. You are a good ball player. You love to make up your own games or play two-square, four-square, and soccer. Your favorite solo activity is still zooming through the house pretending that you are... well... I don't really know, but I know you appear to be in charge and the hero and there is a lot of physical fighting, running, jumping, and flying.
This year you gained fifteen pounds, two sizes in shoes, two sizes in clothes, eleven levels in reading, and an equally amazing level jump in writing. You won an award for being caring, discovered Beyblades, attended your first Giants game, and went out alone on a date to ice cream with your favorite school principal. You gave up your car seat, learned to lap swim alone across a pool, conquered your fears of riding a bike and the sound of electric clippers, spoke in front of your school at two assemblies, tried ice skating and laser tag, wrote your first book report, and expertly recited your lines as "Card Number Four" on stage in Alice in Wonderland. You learned to build and control Lego robots, made brownies over a campfire, fed and loved our cats, and tried hard to be a patient and loving friend, brother, and son.
I couldn't be more proud. Now, Mr. Seven-Year-Old, let's go camping. I've packed some candles to put on your s'mores.
Mama (Daddy, Adlai, Hanalei, and Princess Lily)
June 15, 2010
Simon Turns Six: A Yearly Update
Today you are six.
Unlike turning four or five, you've really been looking forward to turning six. A few months ago, when we spotted your six year molars pushing through, you were absolutely delighted that your body was ahead of your actual age. I know this because you shouted, "My body thinks I'm already SIX!" This desire to mature and become a little more independent from us has been a long time coming. Your desire to wash, dress, and prepare food and feed yourself has been battling it out with your desire to be our baby all year long. Earlier in the year, you expressed your anxiety about getting married or going to college. Once we assured you you could live at home, you finally relaxed. Also, Daddy told you about the endless supplies of sugary cereals in college cafeterias; now you're ready to sign up.
Your summer last year was filled with preschool in the mornings and play at home in the afternoons. On weekends we took you to the beach or to museums, theme parks, trains, boats, and other local attractions. In the evenings, we worked to convince you (and ourselves) that kindergarten was going to be GREAT! You were angry about starting a new school, you desperately missed the Feefadders, and you became convinced that eating wasn't necessary. You stopped paying attention to your teachers and occasionally refused to do what they asked. And this is why you started the school year without any ability to read or write. As one of the youngest in your class, we worried you would be left behind.
Graduation from preschool
Boat tour under the Golden Gate
The Mystery Spot, Santa Cruz
On your first day of school, Daddy and Adlai took you to Burger King for lunch, I came home from work, realized that you had spilled ketchup all over your shirt and were wearing your shorts on backwards, helped you quickly change and, together, we walked into your new classroom to drop you off. Three and a half tense hours later, we picked up a very happy boy. You love school. You love your teacher. You love your principal. You love everything about learning. What a relief!
It is hard to believe how far you have come. You can write your own stories in complete sentences. You can read books to us. You draw yourself as something other than a stick with dots for eyes and a line for a mouth. Daddy has moved you past addition and subtraction and gone right to algebra. When we were in Ohio last month, you delighted at your cousin Sarah's quizzing you about science. She asked you about atoms, matter, the solar system, and weather and you answered each question with authority. Those thirty minutes with Sarah probably increased your confidence in yourself one hundred fold.
Silly in the backyard
Rocket launching at NASA
Experiments at the Tech Museum
You absolutely love science: chemistry, astronomy, biology, electrical, or atmospheric. Given the opportunity to watch a cartoon or a video lecture on the solar system or how something works, you will always choose the educational option. Last fall, on our trip to Disneyland, you insisted we throw coins into the wishing well at Toon Town and you took a moment, closed your eyes and wished with all your heart to become "a famous scientist." And then you wished it a second time and a third in case the well didn't quite hear you.
Wishing into the fountain
Chemistry for Christmas
Experiments with cloning
This year has been a big year for travel. In August we spent some time with Grandma Whee in New York celebrating her birthday followed by our annual trip to Cape Cod. In November, we treated you to a surprise weekend in Disneyland. We picked you up from school and drove for two hours before you finally asked where we were going. We flew to Houston in January to visit your Oma and Aunt Jackie, Oahu in February to celebrate Spring break with your Kagle cousins and the Feefadders, and Ohio in May to bury Grandpa Ewing.
Grandma Whee's birthday
Relaxing in Cape Cod
Where are we going?
Happy in Disneyland
Three generations outside Houston
Three generations in Mountain View
Kagle Cousins in Hawaii
Kagle Cousins in Hawaii
I can't thank you enough for being such a wonderful travel companion. I feel like I can take you anywhere and you'll be my little ambassador. Whereever we go, strangers are impressed with your incredible kindness and good behavior. While in Ohio, you enthusiastically volunteered to bury your Grandpa Ewing. After filling the hole with dirt, you went back to the van and cried because you were sad that he was gone. (Even though I'm pretty sure you don't remember meeting him.)
You can't wait until Adlai is old enough to play with "like a five year old" but that hasn't stopped you from engaging him with play at any level possible. You are patient and understanding and rarely get upset when Adlai destroys your creations or runs off with your toys. You've mostly figured out what sets Adlai off into a tantrum and you always attempt to make him feel better. If he cries because he doesn't have the same thing you have, you offer to share whatever the object is just to make him happy. The two of you particularly enjoy running around the house or yard or coming up with new dance moves. You love when Adlai copies your words and moves. It makes you laugh which makes him laugh which makes you laugh even harder.
Hiller Aviation Museum
You asked: "Adlai, do you want to hold my thumb?" Adlai said: "Thank you!"
You are a champion of goodness and happiness and nothing makes you more upset than seeing one of your friends in trouble. You were given the Principal's award this year for Citizenship in part because you were so nice to a new boy in your class on his first few days. We've also heard from another family that you skipped recess to sit next to their boy when he was forced to skip recess as a punishment. You are shocked when people are mean to each other or lie to their parents or do "something bad" on purpose. You won't watch shows or read books in which characters get into trouble. When Adlai requests that I read a Curious George books you run from the room, hands over your ears.
You listen with rapt attention when your Dad talks about science, video games, and his life experiences. You're pretty sure that I know nothing important, but you love me anyway. I'm good for snuggling and am probably more likely to give you what you want.
Winner of the cake walk AND the "grassiest" cake!
Earth Day park cleanup with your class.
Although in this past year you've conquered your fears of being suffocated by helmets, life vests, goggles, and deep water, you're now afraid of having anything in your mouth with the wrong texture. You have learned to spit the food out into a napkin but, seriously, the amount of food you need to spit out makes this an obnoxious habit that you need to overcome.
Your kindergarten class
You are a social creature and without social interaction, particularly new social interactions, you are easily bored. In January, we started a weekly movie night to help rectify this problem. We invite one or two of your friends families and you kids play, eat, and watch a movie while we adults take time to catch up and relax. We also try to break up the mundane by celebrating: Fourth of July, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, New Years, Valentine's, St. Pat's, Passover, Easter, birthdays, loose and lost teeth, and school events, we hit them all. We prepare. We enjoy. It gives us something to do. Last fall we even celebrated the birthday of Balcony, your stuffed kitten.
Halloween (You're Ben 10)
New Years Eve
Passover (reading the four questions)
You've been playing soccer since Winter, which you actually enjoy, and you still take swim lessons once a week. You can freestyle yourself across a pool and swim to the bottom of the shallow end like a catfish searching for a meal. I love to watch you swim. The teachers say you will be promoted to the next class - swimming alone in the deep end - as soon as you realize that you ARE, IN FACT, SWIMMING. Confidence, my boy, we need to work on that.
Since you have been old enough to express yourself, the one object you've wanted most has been a cat. When you were two you collected stuffed cats and carried them whereever you went, when you were three you pretended to be a cat, when you were four you drew Daddy a card asking for a cat. Just over a week ago, and after a painfully long wait, we brought two cats into the family. You play with them, you talk with them, you love them and your laughter at watching them, well, it's contagious...
They make you deliriously happy. You make us deliriously happy. I guess it all works out.
Mama (and Daddy and Adlai too)
August 21, 2009
Simon Starts School
OK, so this isn't part of the yearly update series but Simon's first day of school is a big enough deal to warrant an update, no?
Simon started kindergarten on Wednesday! And after months of trepidation and worries and downright fear, we are all relieved and delighted to report that he LOVES it.
Simon is in afternoon kindergarten four days a week and in morning kindergarten on Fridays (because Fridays are special spirit days for the school during which the entire student body gathers for special assemblies, field trips, etc.) I came home before lunch on Wednesday so we could all participate in his send off. He and Matthew picked out a cake for after school and Simon was treated to a lunch from Burger King. Here is our evening celebration...
If he looks a little worried, it's because he was. No more! (Thank goodness.)
June 15, 2009
Simon Turns Five (A Yearly Update)
Today you are FIVE.
Five has always seemed to me to be the age at which a kid is really a kid – no longer dependent on care givers for personal maintenance, decision making, boo boo kissing, or constant supervision. I’m glad these are not hard set requirements of being five because I’m not altogether ready to let go of Simon, the baby. As it turns out, you’re not ready to let go either - you really like being coddled and cuddled - so together we're going to navigate this brave new age of five - pretending for a while longer that you actually need my help.
This was a pretty huge year in terms of personal accomplishments. You started the year off by taking a soccer class – your first introduction to the sport. You were the youngest and every other kid had clearly been eating, breathing, and watching nothing but soccer since birth. The coach terrified you so you just wouldn’t participate. And then he had a family emergency and the new coach was much more your style. You enjoyed yourself after that but, when it was over, you decided that soccer really isn’t for you. In your words, it involves “too much running back and forth.”
You started to become more afraid of things this year and it comes on so suddenly that it is sometimes hard to know when you’re kidding. When we went to Cape Cod, you claimed to be afraid of the hermit crabs at low tide and there was some stress about watching the fireworks display on the Fourth of July. It has become clear that your chief fear is noise. Once the noise starts, you’re usually fine but the anticipation that something will be too loud is a big concern. We had to take you to your pre-kindergarten checkup TWICE because the first time you absolutely refused the hearing test. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t convince you that the headphones were going to play a quiet beep. The second appointment wasn’t much easier. Luckily, the medical staff was very accommodating and finally allowed you to control the sound machine which solved the problem. You wouldn't agree to a birthday party this year unless we agreed that there would be "NO SINGING AND NO CLAPPING" after you blew out the candles. Your party theme was "space" so we all pretended we were in space where it is silent - we also kept the party small so there would be less screaming.
Two weeks before you started your new preschool class, you were finally (mostly) potty trained. We waited for you to be ready for four years as your doctor and most other experts suggested but, by the end of Summer, we were SO done with diapers. You were the size of a five-year-old. Diapers no longer fit so things didn’t stay in the way they should. I put together “Potty Scotty Day” where we trained the doll and then we talked about what to do and practiced how to do it from where ever you were and then we put you in underwear, dropped you off at school and hoped for the best. Potty training you has been the longest and most frustrating journey of parenthood so far. And I think I can speak for your Dad as well as myself when I say that, almost a year later, we still get a thrill when we hear the thud, thud, thud of your feet running down the hallway followed by the sound of the bathroom door closing behind you. I fully expect that the joy of this accomplishment is going to take years to wear off.
Your reward for being potty trained was a road trip to Southern California including a day at Disneyland, a day at Disney’s California Adventure, and a day at Lego Land. You were absolutely at your best from the moment we left the house until a few hours before we returned. Watching you enjoy the rides (those without scary dark tunnels) and the shows (those without scary fire) was an incredible experience. Even more than the theme parks, you were delighted to be in the hotel rooms and to spend the night next to Daddy with me and Adlai nearby. You burst into tears as we drove up to our house, crying “I want to go back to the hotel!” Even though you are an excellent sleeper these days – always staying in your own room and even sleeping in – you remain a firm believer in co-sleeping. And the sad truth is, we wouldn’t mind co-sleeping one bit if you could stay still and quiet and fall sleep when we brought you into our bed. You're looking forward to the day when Adlai is old enough to sleep in your room - we'll just have to find a way for the two of you to be far enough apart that you don't attack him with your elbows, knees, or give him a full body blow while you "peacefully" slumber.
Fall and Winter of your fifth year was filled with preschool in the mornings, twice weekly play dates with Tessa and Lisa in the afternoons, and lots and lots of celebrations. We had a Halloween party including the traditional games of touching the “monster bits” and grossing out over the slimy grape eyeballs and cold noodle brains. We celebrated the return of the Feefadders by decorating their home in spirals you cut out of construction paper (to practice your use of scissors). We celebrated Thanksgiving and, for the first time, you ate the traditional foods. We celebrated post-Thanksgiving (two additional gatherings with friends) soon followed by Hanukkah and Adlai’s first birthday, and Christmas then New Years and Valentine’s Day. For each celebration we made decorations during your special “craft time” - the half hour after Adlai passes out for the night.
We instituted craft time after meeting with your teachers and discovering that you, my dear, are a perfectionist. Before we started craft time, you were afraid of making a mistake in your artwork so you decided that, instead of failing, you just wouldn't try at all. Your teachers were not pleased with this attitude but within a week of giving you personal attention over nightly crafts, they couldn’t say enough about your transformation. You write your own name, you draw representational objects, and you cut like a pro.
Although you really enjoy being crafty, your favorite subject is science. You love hearing about space and how things grow and change and die and start again. You want to be a doctor and a scientist and a rabbi and an artist and a teacher and an architect and a meteorologist. You are fascinated by tornadoes and earthquakes and completely disappointed that they don’t happen near you on a daily basis. You still love water and I’ve actually seen you swim on your own - in a pinch. You like to build things – especially couch cushion towers and forts. You love to have books read to you. You know all your letters and their sounds and have become interested in reading and writing on your own.
In February of this year, we had a frightening incident that I imagine you will always remember. Your mind checked out with your eyes wide open in school for long enough that the teachers realized something was very wrong. We took you to the hospital and you had a CT scan on your head in the “donut machine” and an hour-long brain wave scan. It turned out to be nothing – possibly a precursor to the flu you came down with two days later. Daddy and I pretended that it wasn’t a big deal because we didn’t want you to be scared but OH MAN were we scared. The idea that something could have been wrong with your brain and could have required immediate attention has left an everlasting mark upon us. Nothing bad must happen to you EVER. It just isn’t allowed.
Even though your brother is now old enough to steal your toys, topple your towers, and finds it funny to bonk you on the head, you remain a very devoted older sibling. You are remarkably understanding and patient and, most of the time, you include him in your play. The two of you really like to chase after each other, make farting noises, and bonk yourselves on the head and say “OW!” You know how to make him laugh so well that driving with the two of you for any period of time is never a problem. Of course, it is a problem for Daddy who is required to listen to your music over and over while the two of you sing and laugh and make fart noises and squeal with delight. Poor Daddy, required to suffer through such loud exclamations of joy coming from the back seat. (I somehow suspect that he doesn’t mind nearly as much as he claims.)
You have made some new close friends at school this year. You and Sawyer are inseparable partners, pretending you are birds and building nests and going on treasure hunts, and you’ve become close to the three Aidens and Beckham. You have a fiancé named Riley but you’ve told her that you won’t marry her until she converts to Judaism so that you can be married by a Rabbi. (Your words and ideas, not ours.) Since visiting your Kagle Cousins, you have become absolutely obsessed by Pokémon. No word yet if your fiancé likes Pikachu – that might be another sticking point in your relationship -that and separation by Kindergarten.
Age four has been my very favorite age so far (especially after the terrifying threes and the terrible twos). You’re such a good kid. You’re funny and talkative and conscientious. Most of the time you listen and you try really hard to make us happy. When you misbehave you often get upset at yourself before we even say a thing. Your real talent still lies in your social skills. It is impressive to watch you have adult-level conversations with our friends – impressing them with all of your biggest words and concepts – and switch to child-friendly conversation as soon as one of your friends enters the room. You stand up for your friends when they need it (even if they are being scolded by an adult) and you make up your own mind instead of following behavior you know will get you into trouble. Unfortunately, you've also become much more shy and cautious this year and you've lost a lot of confidence in yourself. I suppose that was inevitable but it still makes me sad.
What I have enjoyed most about you this past year is that I really, totally “get” you. I can anticipate your choices and how you will feel about something with incredible accuracy. I know when something is going to hurt you and what will bring the biggest smile to your face. I know when you’re pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and when you’re holding yourself back – unready to make the next step. I understand why certain foods won’t go in your mouth and why you won’t wear shirts with designs or words. (I don’t know why you’re the only kid who won’t wear goggles in swim school but I enjoy that you hold firm against peer pressure.)
One of the activities that most occupies your time these days is what you call "dreaming." To the untrained eye it might look like you are a nut - running back and forth and jumping and turning and swinging for hours on end - but, from your expressions, it is clear that, in your mind, a lot more is going on. You're catching Pokemon. You're forging rivers. You're jumping off cliffs and flying through the sky. I remember actively "dreaming" myself and I'm glad that you've found a place, in your imagination, where anything is possible.
Dear, five-year-old Simon, I'm finishing off this letter on a cool June day while watching you swing back and forth on the blue disc in the dappled shade of the big tree in the backyard. You smile. You've thought of something funny. You lean back the wind whips at your hair. You stop to consider something for a moment before pushing off - back toward the sky. You'll come over and talk with me soon - you'll ask a question or have come to an interesting conclusion before returning to your swing. We'll do this for hours.
Now you've come over to sit on my lap and listen to me read this letter and tell you again that I love you.
Mama (and Daddy and Adlai too)
June 15, 2008
Simon Turns Four! (An Update)
Today is a big day in your life (or so you think). You're four years old. You've dreaded this day coming for the past two months so, after today, I hope you'll realize that we love you just as much right now as we did yesterday. And tomorrow? Tomorrow we'll love you even more. You'll always be our baby no matter how tall you grow, how much you take care of yourself, how old you become, or how far you travel. And, yes, I know I ended your blog, but you're a year older and someone needs to give you the highlights of the past year. Here it goes...
You're four! Holy cow.
As far as your life goes, this was the year of stability or, at least, more stability. You started out the year as a three-year-old visiting family in Texas and made your way over to a Disney vacation in Florida and then on to Massachusetts before landing in our new home. Maybe that doesn't sound so stable but hey, we've been here ever since and we didn't even move "permanently" across the country once.
You immediately took to the new place (although, for a while, every time we passed our temporary apartment you asked to go back "home"). Your bedroom is the best room in the house - the only room with a big bright window. And the house has two yards! You've spent lots of time outside in our yards over the past year. When friends came over you would entice them to run in circles in the front. And no one (except your Grandparents) would believe me if I recounted all the hours you've spent swinging on the tree swing in the back. For your birthday this year, you recieved the most magnificent play structure. This purchase has caused us a lot of angst. You fell madly and deeply in love with the structures at the store but putting it in meant putting a lot of money into the yard - something we were not quite ready to do. You'll notice that your parents are cheap and have a problem spending money - except when you fall in love with something. Please use this information wisely.
Besides being outside, your interests this year have included learning about space and nature, hearing about princesses (the kind that are pretty as well as interesting), maps, music, ball games, books and art and writing, pretending for hours with your stuffed friends, swimming, asking "why" and "how", cooking and spending time with adults. You're still much more interested in adult gadgets and pretending than all the bazillion toys we own. You eat like a horse and you've expanded your repertoire of food a great deal to the point where you will try almost everything (if it looks reasonably edible) and sometimes you are pleasantly surprised by the results. "Meatlow" was an eye opening experience; if we tell you something is "like meatlow," you're much more trusting of the results.
You've been going to school two days a week since late August and you've loved every minute of it. Your friends Calvin and Skye were already in the class, so it took you negative two seconds to adjust to the routine. Apparently you and Calvin caused quite a stir in the beginning but, as the year progressed, those smart teachers found ways of lowering the noise level of class by suggesting you sit separately. I don't know what happens to your brain when you come into contact with your three year old friends. You shriek and dance and run and jump and then we get a call from the school to learn that you've passed out on their welcome mat, AGAIN. Until a few months ago, sleep was a continuous problem. We gave up giving you a nap last August because we were tired of you staying up past our bedtimes but without a nap you became belligerent by the early afternoon. Given an hour or two of crazy-tired behavior you'd bounce right back into normal Simon mode but it was really hard to deal with you in crazy-tired mode. (See the time you got angry and decided to run away.)
I think one of the things that defines you as a person is that there is no way that you will ever be overwhelmed by having too many people paying attention to you. Oh you'll pretend to be shy for a minute or two and then WHAM out comes the real Simon: the comedian, the aggressive hugger, the inquisitor. We can take you anywhere and you'll find friends in a matter or moments but sometimes, especially when the kids are older, they reject you and it is very hard to watch. At school you've had some problems with being too gregarious - in combination with your large stature, some kids have found you overwhelming.
But parents of kids at school frequently tell us how their daughters talk about you incessantly. We have an enormous collection of your art projects (art is your favorite subject) AND we have a large collection of art that has been bestowed upon you by your girlfriends. Girlfriends, at three! On some days you are going to marry both Tessa and Lisa and then you run into an attractive twelve year old somewhere and you find yourself drawn to her. That is until you see Elissa, our horticulturalist. Elissa is the end all and be all of women. She has tools, she is super strong, she isn't afraid of walking stoically through sprinklers, and she is so very very knowledgeable about plants and dirt. It makes me proud to watch you woo her at every opportunity. I hope, twenty to thirty years from now, you find an Elissa of your own. I'm pretty sure this Elissa isn't interested.
We bought a couple of child rearing books this past year to help us work through some "issues" and both of them were targeted toward the parents of "strong willed" children. It was actually refreshing to have a label for you: strong-willed. We were tired of comparing you to your friends and coming up with "WHY THE HECK DOESN'T HE JUST LISTEN LIKE ___ OR DRESS HIMSELF LIKE ___ OR USE THE TOILET LIKE PRACTICALLY EVERY OTHER KID WE KNOW?" The problem is that you don't feel subservient to us *at all* or to your teachers or grandparents. No, you do things because you WANT to do them and convincing you that we are in charge and you must do things you don't want to do has been particularly painful this past year. Sometimes we can make a game out of the activity but mostly we have to offer two warnings before a time out to make you stop and listen. We've also learned that we really can't force you to do things and, for the most part, you could care less about incentives. This all came to a head after Adlai was born and you decided if we were going to "replace" you, you were going to replace us. You even had Calvin's parents all picked out.
So whoever came up with the "terrible twos" had clearly not met a three-year-old like you (unless the "terrible twos" were followed by the "horrific threes"). I have convinced myself, however, that being strong-willed makes you a more interesting child and will make you a more interesting adult. How could it not? The self confidence and sheer determination it takes to maintain your opinions no matter how much pressure you endure from peers and those in authority is amazing.
Despite being occasionally difficult, most of the time you are very silly and sweet and incredibly polite. You're always trying to make us laugh. Recently you've started to recite the beginnings of your own jokes and ask us to make up a punch line. It has been a tradition this past year to put you to bed with a story of your own creation and these stories are inevitably about someone going out into the world to seek their fortune after falling out of a tree and landing on their head, having a name that is impossible to say, or experiencing some difficulty with their bowels. When one of us is having a bad day, you're quick to offer helpful suggestions (like going outside to play with you). You also frequently remind us how much we are loved with words as well as hugs and kisses. When you were mad at me the other day I took a break to be alone in our room. The door cracked open a bit and in came a hand offering me your prized treasure chest full of coins. I went over and passed a coin back under the door. A little hand silently passed the coin back. We did this for a while until I grabbed a piece of paper and drew a heart with your name and passed it under the door instead. The door opened and you gave me a big hug before running off to show Daddy the heart.
What has impressed me most about you this past year is how you took so quickly to your brother. Clearly you felt you were being replaced but your love for Adlai was instant and never wavered. You were there as we drove to the hospital and held my hand without letting go once as I was pushed in a wheel chair to Labor and Delivery. After dinner with your Grandparents, you returned to the hospital to meet and hold your new brother. The hardest part of the whole experience for me (besides the intense pain) was being away from you that night. That was the first night we'd ever spent apart and I think the significance was not lost on you.
You've been such a great big brother. You're patient and (mostly) gentle and eager to help. You love to kiss and hug Adlai and, from the very beginning, have been overheard telling him "You're my best friend." and "You're a dream come true!" and "Oh, my baby! I always wanted a baby." You hate having your picture taken unless I'm taking a picture of you AND your brother. Then you wrap your arms around the baby and smile as if he is your most prized possession. The other day you asked if we could have "MORE babies!" Ummm, no.
How can I sum this up? You're different and unexpected and crazy and that's what keeps our days (and, often nights) full and, when you are older and no longer living at home, we will entertain ourselves with endless stories of how we endured the wonderful adventures of Simon Lucas Kagle.
Mama (and Daddy)