brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

We were at the playground the other day and one of the kids there… well. He’s a bit of a dick. He’s 7 or so and enough of a bully that the other kids have completely turned on him. It came to a fever pitch a few weeks ago when every single kid on the playground (maybe 10?) cornered him, chanting a name-rhyming-taunt. His behavior hasn’t improved since then, and has included stealing Niko’s shoes, shoving him down, and slapping him on the back of the head in passing. One of the most difficult aspects of this is that 1) his mom doesn’t do ANYTHING about his behavior other than mild “now now, CHILD’S NAME, that’s not how we act” (when, uh, obviously it is?) and 2) Niko gets along with that kid’s younger sister and likes playing with her.

So anyway, most recent playground outing, those two kids were there with one of their babysitters (and their babysitters are much more hands on and disciplinarian than either of their parents) and Older Kid was being a real terror including chasing people around and kicking them. Like, kicking them in the chest/arms, aiming for their heads. Babysitter pulls him aside and starts trying to reason with him. “You shouldn’t kick and hit your friends!” “Oh, it’s ok, he’s not my friend.” “So you were just… you were just attacking him? Child’s Name, that is NOT right.”

It was at this point that Niko butted in, all concerned.

“You know, Child’s Name, if you weren’t so HORRIBLE all the time, maybe everybody wouldn’t HATE YOU.”

While true, that’s not really an appropriate thing to say, you know?

Later on, that child tried to join in an impromptu soccer game. The other kids ignored him entirely as he chased them around, tried to hog the ball, and bragged about how long he’d been playing soccer on a team (again, he’s S E V E N, it’s not like he can possibly have been playing THAT LONG), eventually breaking down in tears when everybody managed to keep the ball from him. Every single kid in the group was one he’d physically harmed that day, as best as I can tell with no provocation whatever.

It’s kind of hard to watch. It’s like watching someone repeatedly bashing their head against a brick wall trying to get through the wall when there’s a door right there. Unlocked. Not even fully closed. Just push it open. I don’t know why he acts the way he does… is he acting out? Terrible at reading social cues? Ignorant? A massive entitled jerk? He’s in a Gifted school, so at the very least he… uh. Takes standardized tests well. I just don’t get it. And it’s hard to watch my kid deal with that, with him, with this out of nowhere aggressive and hurtful behavior. He wants to teach that kid how to be friendly and have friends and get along with everyone and I don’t think there’s any seven year old on earth eager to take social lessons from a five year old who insists his REAL name is Raptor because he has TOE CLAWS and IS A RAPTOR, DUH.

WELL THANK GOD I HAVE ALL THE PARENTING ANSWERS AND MY CHILD IS PERFECT, AT LEAST.

In other news, we’re finally repainting Niko’s room over the holiday weekend. We have all the paint and supplies, including spackle. We’d been putting this off because we want to gut his room, upgrade the wiring, and install soundproof insulation and possibly refinish his floor but… if we wait until we have the money and time to do ALL THAT it will never get done. So we’re going to screw the wall back to the stud where it’s pulling away (yaaaay hundred old buildings wooooooo), spackle everything up, and slap some paint on. It’ll look a lot nicer when it’s done.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Niko’s been watching some Princess movies recently (“Tangled,” “Cinderella,” “Despicable Me 2,” “Brave,” etc) and also talking with a friend of his who is very keen on Princesses in general. He’s been practicing drawing Princesses for her because she’s more interested in that than in dinosaurs and he’s trying to branch out a bit, and also talking about Princesses… including describing a show that he wants to see. It is a show about Princess Dinosaur.

“Is she a princess who is a dinosaur, or is she a princess who rides on dinosaurs?” I asked.

“She isn’t either of those things,” he explained. “She is a princess who travels back in time to STUDY dinosaurs.”

Which, I mean, if “Dinosaur Train” can feature dinosaurs who travel through time to study other dinosaurs, certainly there’s a market for a PRINCESS, perhaps with a cuddly animal companion, who travels through time to study dinosaurs as well? I’ll press him for more details and share some drawings with you as I can.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Niko’s been sick.

He hasn’t been take-him-to-the-doctor sick, but he has been two-severe-colds-in-a-row, miss-almost-two-weeks-of-school sick. His coughing-till-he-vomits has been way less than previous sicknesses, so either he’s growing out of that or he… just wasn’t that sick. I don’t know, but dang am I glad he only barfed once, although he did it all over a pillow that I made BY HAND and stitched BY HAND out of fabric I selected personally years before he was born. And it’s not the kind of pillow you can wash (too big, wrong kind of fill) and it was VERY soaked in barf, so… I put it in the trash can. GOOD BYE PILLOW.

So that’s the worst thing. Not that I had to throw out a pillow (although I miss that pillow. sniff.), but that my poor sweet baby has been so tediously ill. It’s really not fun being sick and starting to feel better enough to feel antsy and then feeling sick and ill again. He’s been a trooper through the whole experience, though, and hopefully we’re in for healthier times.

The best thing recently is that Niko has kind of leveled up in his art. He’s been bugging me lately to copy the art on some dinosaur flash cards he has, and then after I do so he critiques me heavily. So the other day I was all DUDE, DO IT YOURSELF and he was all I CAAAAAAAN’T and I was all DO ITTTT DOOOOOO ITTTTTTTTTT JUST TRY and he did and it was really cool! He impressed himself. So he’s been copying pictures HIMSELF and it’s super interesting to see what he picks up on as important details, and he’s started adding more details to his dinosaurs… which are essentially really stylized stick figures. But now they are really stylized stick figures with crests and feathers.

He also, and this is even more cool, has started making little still lifes and dioramas with his dinosaurs and plastic trees etc and then… drawing those scenes that he has made. That is absolutely the best and most awesome thing he’s been doing lately.

Well, other than coming up with Princess Dinosaur, but that’s a topic for another post, I think.

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Pulling Teeth

Saturday, 21 December 2013 20:28
brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Cleaning house with a four year old is like pulling teeth, if the person whose teeth you’re pulling keeps jamming the pulled teeth back into his bloody gum holes while also running around the room naked and screaming fart jokes at the top of his lungs. It’s kind of an exercise in futility is what I’m saying. And it’s the reason we don’t have a Christmas Tree up yet, because Niko’s been promising to clean up his toys for two weeks now with zero follow through… or he’ll clean up a thing and then get distracted and start playing and then toss the original cleaned thing all over the floor along with a fine layer of shredded tissue paper and also a bunch of mashed up Pringles crumbs or something else nasty. “Why don’t you help him,” you might ask. I have tried! And I either end up doing all the work SOMETIMES WHILE HE WORKS TO UNDO IT, or else he gets mad at me because I’m doing something wrong and seriously pissing him off and throws a fit. Either way, almost nothing gets done except we both get hostile and gassy.

Our living room is currently reasonably clean (Nesko even took all the cushions off the couch and vacuumed them because he is my hero) with a few small things needed to make it Decorating/Company ready. Or it was. And then I spent most of today 1) making cookies and 2) cleaning the bathroom and Niko seized that opportunity to scatter toys all over the place and pull a bunch of leaves off my house plant and scatter them around the floor.

I guess he’s just most comfortable LIVING IN A GOD DAMNED FILTH HOLE OR SOMETHING.

Anyway, I was cleaning the bathroom today and got all done except for taking out the garbage and sweeping/mopping the kitchen floor. I took a break to take a shower and then run to the store so the floor could dry before the sweeping. The bulk of our cleaning products are currently stored in a plastic milk crate in the bathroom and I shoved them out into the hallway outside the bathroom so the floor under it could have a chance to totally dry and then I hopped in the shower. The thought flitted briefly through my head that I should perhaps put the cleaning supplies someplace else, someplace Niko couldn’t get at them. But I banished that thought immediately. HE IS FOUR, I scolded my baser instincts, HE KNOWS BETTER.

I was wrong.

I am a fool.

I need to trust my baster instincts.

I took a lovely shower in a clean bath tub, got out. I went into my bedroom to get dressed and discovered a crayon in the middle of my bed. I called Niko in to put it away and when he took it from me, I noticed that his hands were cold and wet.

“Your hands are gross and wet,” I said. “Did you have an accident? Did you make a mess?”

He hesitated and then said “YES. I did make a mess. But it was on ACCIDENT. It LOOKS like it was on PURPOSE but I ASSURE YOU it was ON ACCIDENT. I did not do it on PURPOSE.”

I noticed that his pants were soaking wet.

I walked, naked, into the living room to take stock immediately. And internets, it really did look like he’d made the mess on purpose. The coffee table was covered with wooden trains, soapy water, and wet play dough. Also: remnants of his lunch, and soaking wet tissues. Do you know what happens when playdough gets soaking wet? It turns into gooey snot, super slick and gross. And it was smeared all over his trains and the table. and he’s tried to clean it up with foaming hand soap (taken from the crate of cleaning supplies), tissues, and half a bagel. Why use a bagel to clean up a mess? I don’t know… because he’s four?

That’s my answer to every baffling thing he does, by the way. “Because he’s four.”

The playdough smeared into the cracks and crevices of his trains was bad enough. Adding the water made it even worse. But squirting the foaming hand soap everywhere? Goddddddddd. And he apparently dropped the bottle and cracked it, leading to even greater messes… stealth messes… messes discovered later.

One of my big parenting things, one of my personal parenting rules I try to follow, is to not yell at Niko when he tells me that he’s made a mess or had a problem– especially if he comes to me to tell me about it or ask for help. This is a hard rule to follow because it’s so, so tempting to give in to anger and holler, or to ask WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOUR or WHY DID YOU DOOOO THATTTTTTTT (because he’s FOUR, duh) or remind him that YOU KNOW BETTER THANNNN THISSSSSSSSSS. I am, of course, not perfect with this. But I try. And the main reason I try is that I WANT HIM to come to me when he’s made a mess or has a problem. Because quite frankly, I’ve seen how he handles cleaning up his own messes (it is TERRRRRRIBLLLLLLLLLLE) and while I know that he’ll get better at physically wiping up spills, the messes he makes will get more complicated as he gets older. And I want him to feel comfortable coming to me for help when he’s older and his messes include failing classes, crashing cars, STIs or unplanned pregnancies, anything like that. I want him to feel comfortable coming to me for help, knowing that he can count on me to support him.

Which, of course, doesn’t mean that I protect him from consequences. I cleaned up his table mess and I’m cleaning up his trains, but those trains are going into time out for a while. I want to be able to help him, I want him to turn to me, but yeah… he’s going to be dealing with consequences. That’s another parenting goal of mine, a guiding rule.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got these pliers and somebody needs to clean these torn up leaves off the carpet.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Until he started school, we’d never taken Niko to the doctor for anything other than scheduled check ups. He had no big illnesses, no big accidents, nothing. I mean, he whacked his head HARD once and I debated taking him in, but there was no urgent YES MUST GO IN NOW moment. Then he started school and started getting sick all the time. We’ve taken him in twice for illness since August and I expect that we’ll take him in a few more times. A very nice and helpful nurse assured me at our last visit that after the first year’s exposure to germs he’ll be back to hardly getting sick at all. Which is lovely to think about, considering that Winter Vomiting Sickness is apparently sweeping through Niko’s school right now, and there’s a lice outbreak in his classroom even as we speak.

That’s not the worst thing about starting school, though. It’s irritating and sometimes a little bit scary, but it’s not the worst.

The worst thing is that Niko is now exposed to 17 other kids on a daily basis– kids with a variety of backgrounds and behaviors and lifestyles. And while it’s great to think that kids can get together and teach other things good habits and behaviors and ways of being, the truth of the matter is that kids are jerks and they only pick up negative things from each other.

We’ve seen all KINDS of negative behavior that’s totally new and frankly some of it utterly baffling. Also making an appearance: whining. He flirted with whining briefly about a year ago but we were able to nip it in the bud. Now it’s a daily thing, nasal and drawn out and as irritating as fingernails on a blackboard is to most people. And I know EXACTLY the kid he’s picked that up from. He’s picked up some very bossy turns of phrase, and has started demanding things instead of asking for them. It’s like my kid is channeling someone else, some other personality; acting as a medium to the most irritating ghost in existence. I hate it so much.

And, you know, my kid is far from perfect and I cringe at the thought of the other kids bringing home his less than sterling habits (which include screaming fits, I’m sorry to say, and also licking snot off his upper lip. I’m not sure which is worse.)

It’s really frustrating to see certain behaviors that we’ve worked hard on establishing go completely out the window the first time he interacts with other kids.

Any suggestions on how to deal with this?

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

We hauled the Christmas Bins up from the basement, where they’ve been stored, but haven’t started setting anything up yet. Niko’s been rummaging through the bins, though, and has pulled out his Christmas books (including “The Polar Express,” which we’ve been reading 3-8 times a day lately) and toys. His Christmas Toys include a snowman hand puppet, some finger puppets, and a bunch of stuffed animals I picked up when I worked at Fannie May right before they declared bankruptcy and were bought by Alpine Confections. He also dug out his Santa Claus Mr Potato Head.

As such, Santa Claus has been flying around the house delivering toys, which he keeps stored in his butt.

(Santa Claus also has his ears under his arms for some reason. “That’s just how Santa Claus Mr Potato Head does it,” says Nikola, and who am I to argue with that?)

While playing The Polar Express Breakdown Train At The North Pole Niko doubled down on the story that Santa Claus stores toys in his butt. “And he poops and pees out of the same place.” “What place is that,” I asked, because I am a sucker for off the wall kid stories. “Out of his pedis,” he said, both mispronouncing “penis” and also for some reason forsaking the Serbian word we usually use. “But you can’t poop and pee out of a penis. That would be a gross medical problem. If Santa Claus was pooping and peeing out of his penis he would need a doctor.” “Well, he used to poop and pee out of his butt like you do, but he has toys in his butt.” “I don’t poop and pee out of my butt,” I said, launching into yet another explanation of penises and vulvas and anuses and urethras. “Ya ya ya you have a pelvis I KNOW,” he retorted, continuing to say “pelvis” instead of “vulva,” which may well lead to serious confusion when he takes an Anatomy class. I tried to explain about butts and anuses and poop and bladders and urethras.

“Well SOME PEOPLE and SOME ANIMALS poop and pee out of the same place.”

“You mean like a cloaca? Like a chicken or some dinosaurs? How they poop and pee and lay eggs out of the same place?”

“YES YES MAMA YES” he said in the tone of voice (which comes more and more frequently) that manages to imply that I’m a barely functioning fool who is only dragging him down. People talk shit about teenagers but four year olds are just as bad while being too short to cook dinner or wash their own laundry. Worst of both worlds.

“So you…. are saying… that Santa Claus has a cloaca.”

“YES mama that is what I said. And he keeps it very clean and cleans it every day so it doesn’t get bugs.”

“He’s worried… about bugs… in his cloaca?”

“Yes, he doesn’t want bugs and mice getting in his cloaca and eating up the toys in his butt and eating all the wood in the toys.”

It all makes internal sense, I suppose, if you can simply accept that Santa Claus 1) stores toys in his butt and 2) has a cloaca. He is a concerned guy! He doesn’t want bugs eating up the toys! That are in his butt.

Later he revealed that Santa has many elves (which he just calls ells) and some are boys and have pedises and speak in English and some are Gworwuls (girls) and have pelvises (vulvas) and speak in a language nobody else understands but them. Which kind of sounds super sexist like whyyyyyy are you saying these women elves just spout gibberish? Is that what you think women do? That they don’t speak? That they don’t make sense? That they aren’t worth listening to? But then he clarified that they speak the same language as The Minions from “Despicable Me” and he loves those minions so much and has renamed all his stuffed animals after them and possibly this is how he’s trying to explain why there’s no female minions… they are all hanging out with Santa Claus at the north pole. (NB: there may be female minions I guess, but all the named ones have very male-typical names)

He’s a weird, creative kid who is not willing to let himself be bound by things like common sense or mammalian anatomy. I absolutely love that about him.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

One of Niko’s prescriptions is Codeine, which is a controlled substance – it’s an opiate, and it’s habit forming, and it can also be dangerous (especially in little kids). When we dropped it and his two antibiotic prescriptions (one for his general lung funk and one for an unrelated butt rash) the pharmacist gave it a good long side eye.

“He’s just got a cough?” he asked.

“He’s got a cough that keeps him up at night, makes it hard for him to breathe, doubles him over, and causes him to vomit,” I answered.

After typing in a bunch of stuff on the computer, he informed me that our insurance wouldn’t cover it until Niko was 5 years old, which seems odd to me but WHATEVER. Although it wasn’t too expensive, it was still more money than we really had at the time (it was the day before pay day and we’ve had a series of unexpected expenses) so we elected to pick it up the next day. I spent the rest of that day, that night, and the next day doubting myself for two reasons: both for not picking it up right away even though that would have left us with absolutely no money at all in case of emergency, and for having it filled because Niko is FOUR do I really want to dose him with an opiate?

Nesko picked up the codeine last night on his way home from work. It was a bigger bottle than I expected. I opened it and sniffed it because I was curious. I remember taking codeine syrup and having it be a sickly chemical-y fake cherry This codeine smelled… wrong. Bad. I stuck a finger in the bottle and licked it. Nesko laughed at the face I made, then he did the same.

“Oh, that’s not so… URGH.”

It takes awhile for the flavor to really bloom on the tongue and throat, you see.

I am a person– a weirdo, you might say– who does not find the taste of NyQuil or Robitussin objectionable. Part of this is because I was so sick so often as a younger person and those medications made me feel better, if even a little bit, so I have a positive reaction to them. But this codeine? blargh.

Nikola, as I think I’ve mentioned, is A Delicate Flower, and certain textures AND TASTES cause him to gag and sometimes vomit. So we prepared him for the bad taste.

“This tastes bad,” we said. “This does not taste good. But it is medicine and will help you feel better, and after you have it you can have an ice cream sandwich.”

Nikola took it, agreed that it was DISGUSTING, and then ate an ice cream sandwich. And then he turned into a horrific whine beast, staggering around the living room and finding fault with everything. Was it the codeine, we asked ourselves, or was it simply a sick four year old who was up too late waiting for his medication to come home? We all tucked ourselves into bed, him wedged between me and Nesko, and he was Full! Of! Comments! And! Commands! for about five minutes while Nesko and I both advised him to shut up shut up shuttt upppppppp already. Five minutes later, he was sacked out.

Niko slept, without coughing, for twelve hours and woke up chipper and alert and in a great mood.

After eating breakfast, he joined me in the kitchen, and was seized by spasms of coughing. I asked him if he wanted more cough medicine. He shook his head no, then yes. He calmed down. I asked him if he wanted more cough medicine. He said no. He started coughing again. I asked him if he wanted more cough medicine. He nodded yes. When he’d calmed down again, I asked if he still wanted cough medicine. He looked. so. sad. but said yes. I gave him some more and he drank a bunch of water and had a piece of candy and bopped off. I heard him coughing a few times, although not as bad, and have heard no coughs at all for the past hour which is amazing.

For a long period in my life, I would get bronchitis 2-3 times a year. Each time, I’d be sick for 2-4 weeks and would miss at least a week of school. I’d cough until I puked. I’d cough my throat raw and bloody. I’d pull muscles. I’d get so tired from coughing that I was no longer able to really cough and would make pathetic almost-cough sounds and people would mock me for faking it and acting pathetic for attention, while I struggled to breathe. Super fun! I spent a lot of time sleeping sitting up in chairs because lying down resulted in suffocating on my own snots.

This is absolutely not something I want my kid to experience.

On the one hand, I don’t give him fever reducers when he runs a fever. I want his body to fight off the illness, and for the most part it does. I’m very aware that antibiotics don’t do anything for viral infections and if Niko’s doctor said “Welp, this is viral, only thing we can do is wait it out and keep him hydrated,” I’d be fine with that. On the other hand, good lord this cough. It’s gone on so long and it’s so rough on him and he has asthma so I worry about him being able to breathe.

So I filled his codeine prescription, and I’m super glad that it seems to be working for him. The deep shadows under his eyes are much lighter than they were, he’s got a lot more energy today. He could just be improving on his own, sure. But this really seems to be helping him.

He’s already missed a week of school. I’ll be glad to see Monday.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

We successfully made it to the 2nd day of school.

Yesterday, the teacher said we had to go to Door Blah and the teacher’s aide would be there to take the kids inside, and we parents were to just drop our kids off and bolt. There were no adults or kids waiting outside (maybe we just missed them?) but there WERE a lot of parents bringing their 3 and 4 year olds inside so I took Niko inside. He had a hard time getting into the classroom because the doorway was thronged with adults just chillin’ so I helped him inside, got his bag put away and his name tag on, etc, gave him some kisses, and left. Some other kid was sobbing and screaming so hard he was gagging and sounded like he was about to barf. Poor kid! Poor parent! Niko was chill.

On the way home, I fretted about my knee and how it hurt and how I couldn’t wait for our insurance to start up in November so I could get an MRI done and see if there’s tiny chunks of bone floating around scraping shit up or what, because I’ve been dealing with knee pain for a LONG TIME, ever since we were rear ended in 2003 and my knee slammed into the dashboard of our car. I forgot to get it checked out at the ER, and it’s been bugging me ever since… for TEN YEARS. So I’m walking home, kind of limping a little because my left knee aches, and my right hip starts hurting because I’m walking funny, and I decide to take a short cut through the alley, and suddenly there’s a snap and searing pain in my knee.

HA HA FUNNNNNNNNN. I said a lot of cusses and general inarticulate NOISES and babies, if I had insurance, I’d be chillin’ in the ER right this very second. But I don’t have insurance, so I hobbled home with the aid of a fence post I found lying in the alley NO LIE and now I’m sitting on the couch with my leg up a bit. Our house mate has agreed to fetch Niko from school and I’m hoping I remembered to put him on the authorized adult pick up list. I’ll have to call and see.

If worst comes to worst, he can probably handle drop offs and pick ups for a while, so I’m glad I have someone I can rely on to be totally boss and helpful. But I’m super pissed at my knee. It’s been hurting more than usual since my mouth blew up, like having inflammation in my mouth was an excuse for the rest of my body to go to hell and act up and hurt and be shitty or something. I absolutely was not expecting this level of searing agony, however.

But whatever.

I was trying to get Niko to help me clean up his toys the other day and he basically refused and we had YET ANOTHER talk about how he needs to respect his toys and belongings and if he can’t do, if he can’t be responsible for his own things, maybe we should put them away. And he agreed to that. So we boxed up most of his toys over the weekend. He’s kept out his wooden trains and train tracks, his musical instruments, his puzzles, 4 stuffed animals (he has two garbage bags full of other stuffed animals) and coloring books and art stuff (most of which is kept in a cabinet out of his reach). It’s been a lot easier for him to keep this toys picked up, and at the end of the week we’ll see if he wants to cycle out something else. This is working very nicely so far and I’m not tripping over stuff as much or feeling as resentful about having to clean and reclean constantly. We set a timer for 5 minutes and anything he doesn’t get put away in that time goes into time out. We haven’t had to put anything in time out. It’s nice.

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Today isn’t just the first day of school in Chicago, it’s Niko’s first ever day of school. He’s starting preschool at our neighborhood school. Since Chicago is so big, there’s a bunch of little (and medium and large, his school is actually pretty large) school buildings and you default into a specific school based on your address. But there’s also Selective schools that, for higher grades, are Gifted or STEM or International Baccalaureate or various flavor of Charter or what have you. It’s incredibly hard to get into Selective schools in Chicago. Like, there’s literally hundreds more kids who qualify for and want to get into separate Gifted programs than there are available slots (Niko’s school has a Gifted track, but I don’t think all neighborhood schools do). We are going to have to do some serious thinking while Niko is in kindergarten about what kind of school we want him to go to for first grade and on, because generally speaking if you don’t get into your first choice school in first grade (or 6th or freshman year or whenever the school’s lowest grade is) you’re never going to get in. There’s just so much competition, so many students waiting to get in. Which means a lot of kids start really specific types of schooling (STEM, Classical, IB, a school with a fantastic music program, a school with an emphasis on physical education, etc) when they’re like 6… which is ridiculously early to make those kinds of decisions. So we might just go with the flow and keep him at his neighborhood school and supplement at home and with museum memberships and stuff. But then if he’s at a neighborhood school, will he get into a competitive high school and then college? I kind of resent that I’m feeling pressure NOW, when he’s FOUR, to do everything right so he has a successful adult academic career (which, I mean, that assumes he even WILL go to college and not just, like, become an auto mechanic or electrician or something else he’d go to a trade school and apprentice for).

I have an Anxiety Disorder and tend to spiral into alternate universes of WHAT IFs at the drop of a hat, so I’m trying really hard to just… Let Go and focus on the important thing right now, which is to shepherd Niko through preschool. The school is being less than helpful by waiting until super late to send out official notices (including school supply lists, nearly creating a financial issue for us), and not telling us ahead of time which door in a building the size of a full city block we should enter for his first day of school. I mean, if they’d just included the notice “Use door X which is on street Y” we wouldn’t have started the first day of school literally soaking with sweat and flushed from walking 4 additional blocks, quickly, in 90 degree heat. I’m also a little peeved that I signed him up for morning classes and they plunked him into afternoon, which take place riiiiight when he’s normally taking a nap. But there were too many kids signed up for AM so whatever.

But now we know what door to go to and what to do if he wants to eat lunch in the cafeteria first and we plan to have donuts or ice cream every Monday after school, and we know for sure which class he’s going to be in and which time, and that he’s going to have 3 field trips this year (the zoo, the Shedd Aquarium, Navy Pier). He’s got his own cubby and he’s met most of his class mates (and WOW there is a girl in his class who is a future Homecoming Queen/Lady President) and he’s gone on record as saying he won’t cry tomorrow when I drop him off and leave him there. So we’ll see how it goes.

School is a half mile away so unless I hang out up there (at the school? at Dunkin Donuts down the street?) I’ll be walking 2 miles a day to drop off/pick up. I’m not looking forward to doing that come winter. But we’ll survive.

Niko Dressed Himself

Niko Going To School

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brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

When Niko and I went and enrolled him in pre-k, the teachers asked a few questions about his skills and if we read to him at home etc. They mentioned that it would be helpful if we could work on him writing his name. I think I’ve mentioned before that we have been working on teaching him to write, and I figured I’d tell you some of the stuff that worked for us.

Pencil Holding

I thought about getting some of those triangular finger positioners that you can slide onto pencils, but decided to skip it. Like a lot of really little kids, Niko has a hard time physically holding a writing utensil. One of the things that helps him hold his fingers the correct way is to put a little something in the palm of his hand for his smaller fingers to curl around. We initially used a bit of wadded up tissue, which he objected to. I picked up a little baggie of pom poms from the Target dollar bin and he likes those a lot better. We don’t have to remind him as often to hold his writing utensil the correct way, it’s becoming a habit with him.

Making Lines

There’s a few things we’re doing to teach him how to make straight, slanted, and curved lines (IE, letter components). One of the earliest things I did was draw dots on a piece of paper and have him draw a line from dot to dot. It was a fun thing that we did together, and we’d take turns making the lines. You could also use stickers or something for the “dots.” This ties in to later activities like connect-the-dots and draw-a-line-to-match games.

There are worksheets you can buy from stores or print from the internet that have dotted lines to trace, making up straight, diagonal, curved, etc lines.

brigid: close up of my face a week or so post partum (me)

Just a post for myself, both some things Niko is currently doing and some school readiness notes for myself. Brace yourselves for an upcoming post about how the Chicago Public Schools system works. (spoiler: not well.)

Niko consistently names the colors “red” and “blue” (“weh” and “beeeyuuuu”) although sometimes he automatically adds “tar” (car) or “tootoo” (train) after the color name, because he’s usually talking about red cars or blue trains or whatever.

He sometimes says “pink” (“bih”), “purple” (“burrpuh”) and “orange” (“ourah”) but doesn’t seem comfortable saying the words.

He can identify red, blue, pink, orange, green, yellow, purple, black, and white. He will point to or fetch the appropriately colored item (block, car, sock) or shake his head no/yes to indicate what color something is (is the shirt green? no? yellow? no? red? no? orange? yes!).

He recently learned to say peekaboo (pee-ka-BOO) and is all about hiding and popping out now. He also plays peekaboo: he hides his face, and says “where da baby?” and “where da mama?” then “PEE KA BOO!”

He loves exclamations like A-HA!, dances when he sees a penguin (I guess that’s what penguins do? they dance?), picked up the word “wiggle” (WIIIGUH!), and apparently cheers himself on with the phrase “good job!” when he’s at my in-laws (it’s a phrase I use when he accomplishes something; I never hear him use it at home).

Nesko was in the bathroom the other day and Niko went looking for him. “Where tata? Where cu bee? (where could he be?)” At my in-laws, he phrases the same questions in Serbian. “To baba?”

He describes things by color (if he has the color name) and by descriptor. A truck is a “bit tah!” (big car). A toy car is a “baby tah!” “Beeyuuuuu baby tah!”

He also describes things by what they are NOT. The back of a book we have features photos of other books in the series: a book about a tractor, a bulldozer, and a fire engine. Niko is always excited to see these machines (flipping to the back cover is part of the story time experience with that book), and he is quick to point out that they are not trains, and are not cars.

He calls his pacifier, which we (Nesko and I, and Nesko’s family… basically every single person he encounters) consistently call a susula, a “nyu nyu.” He manages to make a sucking/suckling sound when saying that. Nesko’s able to replicate it, I’m not.

He calls Nesko’s mom “baba” and Nesko’s dad “not baba.” I think it’s because he has a hard time saying “djedo,” although he’s said it before when he fell in some snow and his hands got cold and wet. He was hesitant to start walking until he was comfortable doing so, confident that he wouldn’t fall over. I think he could have started walking weeks or more before he actually let go. New words seem to have the same caution. He can say “orange” and “purple” and “pink,” but he can’t say them well, so he doesn’t say them often… when, ironically, saying them more frequently would lead to saying them better. Obviously, I need to keep working with him on colors and encourage him to say these words.

He’s really starting to echo phrases we use (“good job,” “where could he be?”) as a way of conversing, but is also putting words together on his own… sometimes delightedly (“beyuuu tootoo. bih too too. Bih beyuuu tootoo!” (blue train. big train. big blue train.)). He likes certain verbal sounds (which reminds me of Crusty the Clown talking about funny words… “mukluk” is funny. Some words are just inherently funny; Niko agrees.) and picks up some words very quickly… pickle, wiggle, goofball.

He consistently recognizes the letter “o.” He can pick out lower case p, b, and d as being similar, and tends to call them all “b,” but will correct himself if prompted. He calls “m’s” myom myom because he eats M&Ms (myom myom is food). He recognizes other letters as being distinct shapes… He kept pointing to two Ys that were on the same item, in different fonts and colors.

His interest in counting consists mostly of tapping/pointing at things while I count aloud. If I ask him the color of something and he knows it but can’t/won’t say it, he does a similar tapping then nods when I name the color. So I’m hoping actual verbal counting comes soon, he’s just holding himself back. He “counts” on his own, tapping things and saying “dah dah dah” at each tap.

He calls circles and ovals “Ohhhhs.” I need to work with him on other shape names. He’s got a shapes puzzle I need to pull out so we can name shapes together.

I know there are parents who use flash cards. I’m not sure how interested Niko would be in flash cards. I’m thinking of making an alphabet book of our own… also thinking of working with Nesko to do one in Serbian, both in Latin and Cyrillic. It would be educational for me, that’s for sure. I practice counting 1-10 in both English and Serbian with Niko, but the words are only in English when we read counting books. I might do a Serbian counting book as well.

Niko got 3 wooden train sets for his birthday (spoiled much? yes. yes, he is.) and he’s been playing with them pretty much non stop. Two of them have bridges that involve a curved (not curved like a quarter circle, curved like a rocking S shape) track. These curved tracks frustrate him because they don’t lie FLAT, they need supports, they’re easily knocked over, etc. I put all four curved pieces away so he wouldn’t encounter them and get frustrated/angry/upset. He found them, dragged them back down, and… connected them into a sinuous shape, wedging blocks under them for support, and basically treated them like a roller coaster track for his trains. “Whee,” he said. “whee!” They’re still a frustrating thing because the way they are curved they don’t connect flat with the other pieces (one end connects with the normal flat track, the other end curves up into the air) so the trains can get hung up on the connectors. But he found a cool way to play with them anyway. He is good at solving problems.

Pre-K gifted program tests include questions about the days of the week, months of the year, and seasons. We haven’t touched on that at all. At all, at all.

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Mirrored from Now Showing!.