Monday, July 17, 2017

Letter to My Son

Dear Son,

It's been a very busy summer.  June was an active month, including tball (you were thrilled with your tball trophy!), Soccer Shots, Sky Zone play dates, Home Depot kid projects, going to the beach, Vacation Bible School, swim lessons, Jack's birthday party, St Martin summer camp for two weeks (you were camper of the week on the second week) and many play dates.  There was a group play date and then play dates at various times with Daniel (and Jack, Carly, Charlie), Nathan, Jacob, Carsen, EJ, Anthony and your new friend, Adelaide.  Mommy wanted to make sure that you had lots of fun things to do and had the opportunity to see your friends that you made from last school year.   It was a lot of work and a lot of running around and a lot of planning.  It was exhausting.  And... it was all worth it to see your joy.

July, the focus is more on arts and it started with this past weekend.  We met Daniel and his Mommy, Cassy, at Posh Paint Pub to paint ceramics.  You did it all by yourself.  You picked out what you wanted to paint.  You picked out the paint colors.  You painted the objects.  The only thing that Mommy did was to move the pieces - such as the round ornament.  If you wanted it moved from top to bottom, I moved it, but you did all the work, including the polka dots.  The lady at the store helped you to put your handprint on it.  We're eager to see the finished project in about a week or so.

Today was your first day of art camp.  Amelia is taking the camp too (this is her second week in the art camp and your first week).  You said it was a lot of fun, but you didn't come home with a project.  I was a little disappointed by that, but the lady said on Friday they do a presentation of the art accomplished throughout the week.  

To finish up the "art" theme, at the end of the month, Mommy has plans for you to go to Sip & Paint for Kids.  You'll paint on canvas, but I don't know what.  Either way, I'm loving that you are enjoying art.

This summer you have grown in leaps and bounds in coloring with markers (even crayons).  You are staying in the lines and ENJOYING the coloring. (You stayed away from this for the longest time.)   Oma found some fun coloring books.  Every morning when I bring you to Oma and Opa's house, you color first.  This is wonderful.  Your love of coloring has helped you in other important ways too - by using markers it is strengthening your hands.  You have better control by staying in the lines.  By coloring a lot, you get the muscle strength.   It has also solidified the fact that you are a lefty.  No doubt about it now.  (You will use your right hand when your left hand gets tired, but that's happening less frequently.)

And with this.... you are writing your name, both first and last name, beautifully.  Perfect?  No, but a thousand times better than before.  Oma gives you check marks above each letter for each letter that is completed without any issues.  You still want to write the lower case e a little too high.  You still don't want to bring the tail of the lower case y low enough.  But that's a huge improvement from the end of the school year.  I have to add, you are doing this without anyone helping.  Literally.  When Oma says that it's "school work time," she gives you the writing pad and a pencil and she walks into another room.  You have the sample to look at, but all of the writing is done by you, without assistance (of course she helped you in the beginning of the summer, because you needed it).  I'm incredibly proud of you!  See below for when you wrote your name at school on May 1st and below is the picture I took today from your lessons at Oma's.  Yes, you did this on your own!

Mommy and Oma both bought workbooks for reading, writing and math.  The books include alphabet writing, cutting pages (your use of scissors has improved drastically too), putting pictures of stories into order, working with the concept of more and less, coloring a page by recognizing capital and lower case letters and oh gosh, so much  more.

Last summer Oma started you on site words.  We didn't continue it too much into the school year.  The beginning of this summer, it was a bit of a struggle to get you back into reading the site words.  That said, you are doing well.  You have learned roughly 20 site words, such as:  Me, You, Love, Car, No, Yes, Up, Down, Walk, Go, Stop and many of the color words, Red, Pink, Purple, Green, Yellow, but Blue still stumps you.

One of the courses that I signed you up for, after reviewing it with Oma, was the LSU/UNO reading program.  It's on Saturdays only, for an hour and 15 minutes.  That's a long time for a squirmy 4 year old boy.  We have been to two classes (it's a 5 class program) and I think it's wonderful!  Parents are required to stay the entire time, which is great, because we know what is being taught and how to continue the method of education.

The reading program has a phonetic focus as well as site words.  The first class, the teacher read the book, "Caps for Sale" and then she divided the children into two groups.  One group, the one you were in, became the peddlers.  The other group acted out the role of the monkeys.  You loved it and totally got into the role.  As the teacher explained, "Acting out a story will help children develop a love of reading."  Plus, the more you read, speak, act out, the more likely you are to remember.  It's all part of teaching yourself the art of learning and studying.

The first site words were "I" and "See" - both of those words Oma already had in her school work for you.  The second day of the reading program, the words "Can" and "And" were added.  Oma had "Can" already as well, but it wasn't an easy one for you.  Having the class reinforced what Oma was trying to teach you.  Oma didn't have "And" in her site words yet, but it was one she was planning on teaching you. So, it was perfect timing.  As we left the reading building, Mommy said, "And is a new site word.  And brings things together.  Mommy AND Daddy.  Oma AND Opa.  Gregory AND TJ.  Mac AND cheese."  You laughed at the last one.

Some of the other fun learning activities we learned during the second reading program:

1)  The Simon Says Game, but with Sounds.  The teacher said, "If the word that I read to you begins with the "SSSSSS" sound, the you DO what it says.  Here's the first word.  Stand."  The kids stand up.  "Here's the next word.  Jump."  Some of the kids jumped and you shouted, "NO, NO, don't do it!"  The kids loved the game and it's definitely a great tool to use for sound recognition for phonetics.

2)  Catch The Sound Game.  The teacher said, "If you hear the "a" sound at the beginning of the word, then clap your hands to catch the sound.  Here's the first word.  Ants."  Afterwards, she asked the kids to say different "a" sounding words at the beginning of the word.  You said, "Acrobats."

3)  Guess the Word Game.  This wasn't as easy, but it is fantastic in the thought process requirement.  The teacher said, "I'm thinking of a word.  You have to guess what I'm thinking.  It will start with the "a" sound.  Here is a clue:  You can eat it."  (Apple)  It took the kids about three times with various words before they caught on to the clues idea.

The LSU/UNO reading program comes with books that you take home, books that the teacher brings for the students to read (and returned to her - Caps for Sale, A House for Hermit Crab, etc) and... homework assignments.  You get on the computer, sign into their website and have 4-5 tasks to complete prior to the next Saturday class.   You love the catch the word game.  You enjoy the books being read to you.  You have silly sentences to make as well.  Oma said, "It's kind of corny, but Gregory loves them."

I did wonder if any of these site words would stick.  Today we read four books.  While reading out loud, I asked, "What's this word?"  You knew the words I pointed to.  Those were words from your site cards from Oma and the reading program.  Oh and by reading four books, you have accomplished the Library Summer Reading Program which required 10 books before August.  You can't read all the words, but the idea is that the parents are reading to the young children to develop a love of books.

You have accomplished so much this summer.   You are at the age where you are ready for the lessons, from writing to art to reading.  It's amazing to me how much you are taking in and being well behaved in wanting to learn.  At first, Mommy told you, "Gregory, you have to do school work during the summer."  You whined about it.  Now you are used to it.  I love that you have maintained knowledge you learned during the school year and advanced with it as well.  We still sing the ABC song, we still sing the months song that you learned last year.  You even sing some of the church songs from chapel days.  My hope is that you retain a lot of what Oma has taught you.  I think we might need to have "homework" even after school during the year... not just what you are learning, but new things too.  Oma has been a huge factor in your education, the joy of learning and the consistency of working with you.  You love Oma and one day you will realize just how much she has helped you with your education.  She makes things fun for you, yet educational as well.  I'm providing as many tools for her as she can use, plus what she already has and obtains too.

This summer, so far, is educational for Mommy too.  You need the physical activity - such as swimming, tball, soccer.  Mommy found out that Atonement Lutheran School has week by week summer camp for flag football and other sports.  There is also an indoor sports place, but it's pricey.  I would sign you up again for tball and try out the flag foot ball for next summer.  I want you to continue to learn new sports.

You also need the play dates.  It's been hot.  Summers here always are... but that just means you get a bath earlier than normal.  It's okay to have play dates at the park.  It's great to have pool play dates.  Even better in an air conditioned Sky Zone or at a home.  Social interactions and friendships are important, especially so when you are an only child.

The arts are important too - bringing out the creativity in you, learning to stay within the lines, seeing pictures emerge from following instructions from a color by alphabet, working with paints on objects that aren't flat, projects at home and in classes.  I'm incredibly grateful that Oma and Opa are able to bring you to the classes, which are during the timeframe that Mommy is at work.

Along with the reading program, Mommy also signed you up for a handwriting class, which takes place towards the beginning of August.  Oma has done a lot with you for writing and this class will hopefully reinforce what you are learning, as well as promote more hand strength.  There are social events to attend to such as your cousin's baby shower, more play dates and Sip & Paint classes, as well as family gatherings, your daddy's birthday, your great-grandmother's 91st birthday, a hot air balloon festival... and then school starts!

Now, to change the subject of things you have done so far, to snippets of conversations:

You:  "Mommy I'm going to cry when I leave home."
Me (confused):  "When are you leaving home?"
You:  "Daddy said when I get older I'll have a place of my own and I'll leave home.  I'm going to cry and I'm going to miss you."  You started to literally cry.  I gave you a huge hug.
Me:  "Oh, sweety.  That won't happen until many years in the future, when you are finished school and you are off to college.  You have many, many years with us at home."  That seemed to help.
Daddy heard the conversation and hugged you too.  I don't think he realized the affect his words would have.  He is trying to think of your future, so far in advance.

You have added another routine to bed time.  You'll call out to me, "Mommy, come tuck me in."  You like the sheets tucked around you, but not over your arms and only mid-way to your chest.  You are still going to sleep in your bed, but then in the middle of the night, coming to my bed.  I don't know why you wake up in the middle of the night... sometimes though you have slept the entire night through in your own room.  I don't feel bad about this.  You are only 4 after all.  And I've heard from other parents that their kids, your age, are doing the same, sometimes sleeping the entire night with the parent.  Eventually you will sleep the night in your room.  And yes, eventually you will have a home of your own too.  I'm not rushing anything.

One afternoon we were driving back from tball.  The sun was setting.  You started to sing.  "I look up and I look down and I see beautiful everywhere."  You made up the song.  Your words filled my heart with happiness.  I love that you see beauty around you.

You want to make people happy, such as wearing Red to TJ's birthday party, because you know that TJ loves the color read.  You also made Holly a lego block vacuum robot.  When Holly left it at our home, you were sad that she didn't keep it.  Holly came over another night and you were thrilled to rush the lego blocks to her.  She has it in Maryland, at her home now.

You have a creative thought with blowing kisses.  When we blow kisses to you now, you EAT them.  You chomp down and chew as if you are eating the kisses given to you.  You explained, "I eat the kisses so that they go from my mouth, to tummy where the kiss breaks up, but then my heart puts it back together again and it stays there forever."

You show your knowledge of compassion and kindness.  You heard Oma on the phone and you knew that something was wrong.  You asked Oma what was wrong.  Oma didn't want to lie to you.  She said, "My sister is dying."  You ran up to Oma and hugged her, saying, "That's terrible, Oma.  That's so sad, like Aunt Kim's mommy."  Your words touched Oma and made her want to cry, because of your loving compassion.

Life.  We never know what will happen and how long we have.  We have to make the most of it.  When you get older and have a house of your own, life will seem to revolve around work and money and staying ahead of the rat race.  If you are there, right now, reading this letter... I hope you are realizing how precious the small things are, that have nothing to do with money.  It's the story reading, the lego playing, the painting, the learning, the TIME with loved ones.  Make the most of it, sweet son.  I'm trying to do that with you, because I don't know how long I'll be here on this earth.  I might fill our time with things to do, projects to make, playdates to go to, but it's because it's quality time and brings you smiles.  I want to create memories for you.  Find joy in your life, always.

Love Always,

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Letter to my son

Dear Son,

Tball is going well.  You need more practice, but you are hitting the ball (sometimes) when it's thrown to you.  It's fun to watch you and your teammates scamper after the ball when you're playing field.  There aren't as many melt downs with the kids when someone else gets the ball.

Your Daddy loves playing first base when your team goes to bat.  He high-fives the kids as they make it to first base and shows them where they need to run next.  Mommy loves taking pictures during the games.  One coach, Candace, shares the pictures with the group and plenty of parents have thanked me for taking them.

Daniel is on your team, which I'm tickled about.  It's great that friends from school are doing things outside of school, be it teammates or play dates.  I think that's so important, because it allows for friendships to grow.

The last day of school was a picnic.  Mommy and Oma attended.  Mommy had the picnic basket and Oma had the red and white checkered cloth.  It was the perfect way to end the year.  Parents and their kids were there.  We got to all see each other and watch you and your friends run around, playing with chalk and bubbles and sharing picnic food... it was very sweet.

At one point, you said, "Mommy, my invisible bucket is empty."  I asked you to repeat what you just said.  Then I thought, "Hmmm, time to ask Mrs. Becky about that."  Mrs. Becky laughed and said, "I just finished reading a story to the kids.  It's about how all children carry an invisible bucket.  To fill the bucket you do nice things.  If you help someone or share with someone, not only do you fill their bucket, but you fill yours as well."

You told me again about your empty, invisible bucket.  I took out a box of cookies that we bought; they were shaped like watermelons (picnic food!) and said, "Gregory, would you like to fill your bucket by sharing these cookies?"  You walked to all of your friends and offered them a cookie.  I love your school.

The latest thing at school is all the kids asking the parents, "Can we have a sleep over with our friends?"  You told me, "But Mommy, ONLY BOYS can sleep over at my house."  I asked you why not girls too.  You explained, "Because I only have toys that are made for boys."

That wasn't the only picnic we attended; our church community hosted a picnic the weekend after your school picnic.  During the church service, a baby was being baptized.  Father AJ invited the children of the community to step over to the baptism area.  You were eager to watch.  I think it's beautiful how the community participates in the baptism.

Afterwards there was lots of food, bubbles, outside games, water balloon fights, bobbing for strawberries and a water slide.  I'm so glad I insisted that you wear your bathing suit, even though Daddy didn't think the weather would hold out.  It held out, yet again and you were able to have fun.

Another fun activity we are doing with you is swimming.  I loved Oma and Opa's pool when I was a little girl.  Now it's even more special to share the pool with you, as you learn to swim - no float devices!  Your swim lessons began today, but during this past week Mommy went swimming with you.  At first you were a little hesitant to swim to me.  So, I swam across the pool, length wise.

You saw me swimming and then you felt more confident to swim to me.  You swam a short distance to me and back to the steps to Oma.  Then... Mommy started to walk backwards as you swam to me, to make the swim distance longer.  When you walked to the edge of the pool, you wanted to jump in and swim to me.  You instructed me, "Stay Right There!  Do NOT walk."  I said, "Okay, I will stay right here."  You looked at me and asked, "Are you joking?"  I had to laugh.  I had to stay right there.

TJ is going with you to take swimming lessons.  This is the first time TJ has gone in a pool (other than the other day with Oma at her home.)  I asked you if TJ liked to go into the pool.  You said that he cried, but when you swam to the instructor, both TJ and Anthony watched you.  I wish you had older cousins close by where we live to help you as you have helped TJ.  It's one of the reasons I find activities and events for you to go to - to learn from older children.  (Fortunately our church and school offer lots of things.)  You are happy to show TJ how you swim, how you pee, how you talk and how to play with toys.

You are the big boy now, teaching your younger cousin.  Today at lunch, Oma offered TJ some salad.  He took it and threw it on the ground.  Oma asked you if you wanted salad.  You said "No."  I looked at you and said, "I bet that if Gregory ate salad, then TJ would to."  You took a "small piece" of salad and ate it.  And yes.... TJ did too!  Children learn from children and it's your turn to be the teacher.  You take to it well.

Some funnies:

You told me, "Donald Duck sounds like a gentlemen when he drinks tea."  I asked you what you meant.  You changed your voice into a deep sound and said, "May I have a spot of tea?"  TOO cute!

Recently you made a cool robot with your legos.  Daddy said it looked similar to a totem pole.  We showed you pictures of totem poles on the Internet.  Yesterday you asked me if we could do a project together.  I thought quickly.... grabbed some paper, an empty paper towel roll and some pens and crayons.  As fast as I could, I outlined a cat's face, a heart, a boy's face, a flower, two bird wings, a profile of a bird.  I told you to color the pictures I just made.

You did so, but you didn't like the profile of the bird.  You asked what we are going to make.  I said, "A totem pole."  You asked, "But where's the pole?"  Holding up the empty paper towel roll, "We're going to recycle."

Placing tape along the sides, we covered the roll in pink construction paper.  Then you told me what you wanted at the top - the heart.  Then the cat's face, with wings on either side, then the boy and last the flower.  (Sorry bird face, you didn't go on.)  I didn't have anything in mind while drawing those and we never talked about the pictures, but without hesitation, you said, "It's a story about a boy who saw a cat flying and the boy gave the cat a flower and the cat loved the boy."  Love your imagination and story telling!

You told Oma, "You have to do something about the bugs in my toys room!"  Oma came with you and asked where the bugs were.  "Oma, there are a lot of bugs in my toy room.  You have to get rid of them.  They are there, in the corner."  Oma was ready to call the exterminator.... for toy bugs.  Oma told you to take the container of toy bugs to Opa and for you to ask Opa about the bugs.  (Side note:  a few weeks before school ended, there was a week of studying bugs.)  You took each bug out, one by one, and Opa told you what the bugs were.  You divided them into the good bugs and the bad bugs.  No exterminator needed.

Oma went to use the potty.  You walked into the bathroom and said, "Oma, why aren't you standing up to pee?  Where is your penis?"  While Oma thought of a reply, you asked thoughtfully, "Or do you have a penis?  Do you pee from your butt?"  I don't know how Oma kept a straight face, but she managed to explain that women do not pee from their butts and we all have something to pee from, just not everyone has the same body.  You accepted that.

On that note, still laughing....

Love Always,

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Letter to My Son

Dear Son,

You are finished with speech therapy for the school year.  Juli, your therapist, filled out your IEP for next year.  I hope we have Wednesdays again, if possible.  That seems to work out.  I had an interesting conversation with Juli. She said that she ended the school year with starting to work on the "th" and "sh" sounds.

I shared, "If Gregory says, "I want the ball over 'air." If I correct him "over THERE", then he will repeat it correctly."

Juli explained, "We first practice the sound.  Then we use the sound in words.  It takes a while before the sound makes it into every day conversations.  I notice that the "L" sound is part of his every day conversation now."  She is right.

You say "L" words beautifully now, such as when we went to Spudley's.  The restaurant has a map showing all the restaurants in the area, at least when the map was made.  You pretended your hand was a toy car and you drove through the streets.  I asked where you were going.  You replied, "I'm not sure.  It's very complicated."  The "L" sound in the middle of the word was beautiful and it wasn't effort or pause on your part.

Your speech therapist said she will pick up the "th" and "sh" sounds starting off the new school year.  It's interesting to better understand the process of speech.

At St. Augustine's, you studied plants one week.  You learned how a plant can be seen as a person's body, "Your hands are the leaves, your body is the stem, your feet are roots and your head is the flower."  Your teacher had each child plant a bean in a clear cup.  When you brought home the growing bean plant, we looked at the roots and talked about the parts.

It was perfect timing, because soon after the studies at school, we went to Longue Vue House and Gardens for a "Kinder Garden Activity."  This included walking in the children's section where kids (of all ages) were able to touch, smell and taste various herbs.  You liked the art projects too and loved walking through the kids maze of plants.  Both you and TJ enjoyed digging in the gardens (yes, it was allowed).

It wasn't long after that you asked, "Can we have a fairy garden?"  Daddy moved a large planter over so Mommy could repot some plants.  Then in a smaller container, we added your bean plant and a few little pieces for a fairy garden.  I'm hoping you take after your great grand-mother with a green thumb!

Chapel Day at school was lovely.  Last year you sat, you walked, you ran from end to end and sometimes you sang.  This year - completely different, you sang the songs and did the hand motions and you were part of the group.  I love that you have this from your school. Sometimes when we drive to school, we start singing in the car, "This is the day, This is the day that the Lord has made..." - the song you sing when your school group enters the church.

Just recently Mommy was listening to the K-Love radio station, a Christian station.  A song came on... I'm horrible with titles... but it was about someone who wanted to go back to his childhood, "this little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine"- that was a small part of the song.  After the song ended, you asked, "Mommy, was that a Bible song about Jesus?"  Yes, it was.  I love how you recognized your faith in a song.

After Chapel Day, we went to the park.  You saw a path that walks all the way around the park.  You said you wanted to go on the path.  I asked if you were sure, "Do you want to go on the path or go to the playground?"  You picked the path.  This made me so happy!  The park has a lot to offer.  You were thrilled to see three baby geese along the walk, as well as a white rooster, turtles, lots of ducks and birds... and you found a favorite tree that you called your "treehouse."  The limbs touched the ground, but it wasn't an oak.  The low limbs created a curtain all the way around the tree.  You found a small opening and called it your door.  Then you said another gap in the leaves was your window.  I enjoyed your enjoyment of nature.

You can also be so serious at times.  When it was raining and Opa and Oma picked you up from school, you said, "You have to be careful, Opa.  It's raining.  It's important to be careful because of the canal."  The other day we saw a car that slid into the canal.  Images stay with you.

This past week Mommy took you to get a hair cut.  You saw a gift wrapped up and wanted to know what it was for.  I said, "It's for a boy who is willing to be brave.  To do something he might not want to do."  You said, "I'm brave!"  I asked, "Are you willing to do something you might not want to do?"  You thought for a moment and asked with a quiver in your voice, "A haircut?"  I shook my head in agreement.  "NO Mommy, YOU can cut my hair, not Mrs. Gwen!"

That started a conversation.  "What's the difference between Mrs. Gwen cutting your hair and Mommy cutting your hair?"
You were in tears at this point, "I don't like the hummer."
This was a puzzle, "Why don't you like the hummer?  Is it the sound?
"No, because it feels like a bug."
I tried to reason with you, "But you know it's not a bug.  It's just a little tickle."
By the time we arrived at the hair salon and you were unbuckled, you ran to the other side of the vehicle, not wanting to get out.  The only way you would calm down and agree to go is when I said, "We will ask Mrs. Gwen not to use the hummer (electric blade).  But you have to promise to be very still and listen to Mrs. Gwen and not get upset."
Mrs. Gwen said it was the best hair cut yet!  You did wonderfully, no hummer involved.  It helps to ask questions and understand your fears, to help you find a way through them or around them.

Mommy has a new book for us to read together, but I want to download some activities to go along with the book.  It's about bugs that have their own language.  Nothing is written in English, so the reader has to decode the words based on the pictures.  It's detective work.  Mommy's cousin, Holly, suggested the book for you after experiencing a great response from the kids at her school.

Holly has suggested many great reading materials, including the two crayon books you have.  We can read those books over and over and you don't tire of them.  The other day, you broke a crayon.  You jumped up, "Don't run away, crayon.  I'll get tape and fix you up!"  It was adorable.

Today was Kristen's college graduation party.  Mommy made the cake.  You said, "I want to help, Mommy.  I want to decorate the top of the cake."  Ummm, no.  I love you, sweetheart, but I couldn't let you do that.  However, I turned a baking sheet over and showed you how to hold a piping bag.  You practiced a few times to see how the design came out, then you just wanted to eat the icing.

There's some left over icing and I plan on letting you practice some more, especially after you said, "I want to be a cake decorator too!"  It's a great skill and will take hand strength.  Also to note.. you practiced with your right hand.  I wonder when we practice more if you will shift to your left hand.

Tomorrow is a special day.  A day that many years in the past, left a sting of pain.  You have taken that pain away and filled it with joy overflowing.  Thank you for gifting me with being a Mom, every day is Mother's Day.  Thank you for being such a sweet boy, wanting to do the right things, loving to learn, offering adorable laughter, sharing your fears and working through them...  I'm grateful for you and for Daddy.  Our family is filled with laughter and love, every day simple blessings that make for happy memories.

Love Always,

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Letter to my son

Dear Son,

The last week of school before spring break, you eagerly showed me the Easter card you made.  "Mommy, it's an Easter egg with praying hands.  Open it.  Looks, there's a picture of a cross.  But nobody is on the cross, so that means Jesus is alive."  It was beautiful.  We are so fortunate you go to a school that values faith and is willing to teach to young children.

The Easter card helped... in a very sad situation.  Aunt Kim's mom passed away right before Easter.  Mommy and Daddy discussed if you should come with us to Aunt Kim's mom's funeral.  We agreed that you should be there.  We wanted you to be prepared, "Aunt Kim is saying good bye to her mommy.  Her mommy is no longer here on earth but in heaven with Jesus.  Remember the Easter card and how Jesus wasn't on the cross and he is alive?  Kim's mommy is alive and Jesus is taking care of her in heaven.  But Aunt Kim will miss her mommy and that's going to make Aunt Kim sad.  We're going to give Aunt Kim a hug and let her know that we are here for her and that she is loved."

You seemed to understand.  We walked in; you saw Kim, went right to her and gave her a hug.  You saw her crying.  You saw Mommy crying too.  You whispered that you might cry as well.  You saw Aunt Kim's mommy and looked at her.  You didn't ask any questions, but you looked for a while.  Oma and Opa came as well.  Aunt Kim and Mommy have been friends since the 7th grade.  Our families are family, though not by blood.

I don't know how much you understood, but you didn't run wild or act up.  You gave hugs and looked so sad when we cried.  I'm very appreciative of your behavior.

It felt strange to go from a funeral to a family gathering, but that's what we did.  You enjoyed the visit, the games, the egg hunt and the Easter bunny.  Both Mommy and Daddy had family gatherings and you were thrilled with each.  We are very lucky that the Bunny visits Opa's family and we have some really cute pictures, "Better than the mall bunny" according to Daddy.

This week is special, because TJ is staying with Oma and Opa for a couple of weeks and you are off of school this week.  You love TJ.  TJ doesn't say he loves you, but he shows it.... when we arrived at Oma and Opa's house this morning, TJ was crying, because he couldn't get the door open and he wanted you to come over to him.  Watching the two of you play is so sweet.

When the church had it's Easter egg hunt, they allowed children into the yard by age, "Anyone under the age of 1, anyone under the age of 2...." You said, "I have to wait a long time, because I'm a big boy now."  Later I realized that the church group stopped at the age of 6 or 7.... I don't have many  more years for you to innocently love Easter bunnies and egg hunts.

You are at the perfect age to understand and innocently accept the simple joys of the holidays.  It's beautiful and it makes me feel young again.  You are older than most of your cousins on your daddy's side, who are too young to fully grasp about the eggs and bunny.  You are younger than most of the cousins on your mommy's side, most of them don't participate in egg hunts any more.

You are at that perfect age and I want to soak up these memories, the youth, the joy, the magic and I want you to have the memories of the magic too.  It's what my parents lovingly gave my brother and me.  I was fortunate and I want this for you too.

You have taught me something... don't ever stop believing.  To see life and laughter through your eyes is a lesson for me.

Love Always,

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Letter to my son

Dear Son,

You are taking a nap right now.  Naps are rare gems these days.  This morning we went with Oma and Opa to Mrs. Heather's strawberry patch.  You took to picking strawberries like a pro.  You became very picky too - you would turn the strawberry over and around, make sure it didn't have any green, no bird bites or too aged before you would consider picking the berry.  "I'm a farm boy now, because I'm picking strawberries" - the smile was there, even with your serious endeavors.

It was fun, but also educational.  As we were leaving, Mommy asked you, "Do strawberries grow on tall bushes or plants near the ground?"  You replied, "Low, low to the ground!"  I had another question for you, "How does a strawberry start off?"  You explained, "As a small white flower."

We went to Cracker Barrel soon after because you said you were thirsty and starving.  We managed to talk you into a cooked carrot.  You finished the entire piece.  You know that carrots are good for your eyes.

The other day, you said something to me from another room.  I walked into the room where you were and said, "Gregory, if you're going to talk to Mommy, you need to come into the room where I am, because Mommy doesn't have good hearing."  You looked at me for a second, "Okay, Mommy.... I have a question for you.... What vegetable is good for hearing?"  Oh son, you make me laugh and oh, I wish there was a veggie for hearing!

One evening, you walked into my craft area with an arm full of toys, "Mommy, I'm going to be a Scientist, an Inventor and a Spy.  This is my spy stuff.  I need to find a box for all my spy stuff."  Included in your arms was the camera Oma and Opa bought for you one Christmas.  You picked up a flat cardboard piece and took off with the tape.  I was curious, but didn't follow.  Within minutes, you came back with the sides taped up and a box made from a flat piece.  I was impressed.  You said, "Now, I have my box for my spy stuff!'

A few days later, you put two toys together.  You said, "This is a stamp."  It looked like one too.  You "stamped" my hand and said, "Shhhh, it's an invisible stamp.  It's a spy stamp.  The stamp turns into a watch that only you can see."  You walked away, then came back, "But don't tell anyone about it!"

You pick up on so much and you use words appropriately.  Such as.... you were getting out of the car with Oma and Opa.  It's a game between you and Opa on who gets to the house door first.  You whispered to Oma, "Distract Opa so I can get to the door first!"  Oma was surprised with your words and laughed too.  And yes, she followed your instructions.

My friend, Kim, said, "Aleta, Gregory is smart.  He is a mature four year old, probably because he is around adults most of the time."  This is true.  We don't use baby words and never have with you.  You will ask us, "What does (word) mean?"  If you don't know what we are saying, you want to understand.  I love that you do this.  It also makes us have to think about our definitions too.

Though you are primarily around adults, school is wonderful for your social skills.  Plus, Oma has some wonderful children on her street - EJ and Anthony and a new boy you just met, Carsen.  (You call him, "New Carsen" because you also have a classmate Carsen that you are good friends with.)  You aren't shy with children, even kids you don't know.

We also try to have as many play dates with your classmates as possible, from going to birthday parties, to meeting at the parks and this past week... we went to a Butterfly Release.  It was beautiful and sad, for those of us who understood the meaning - the children who died too soon.  Everyone was given a butterfly in a triangle envelope, with the instructions to only hold the tip.  You did as told, then you said, "I can hear my butterfly."

You held the envelope to my ear so I could hear too.  After a little bit, you sat down and looked sad. I asked what was wrong and you shared, "I'm sad.  I don't want to give up the butterfly.  I want to keep it as a pet."  I sat down with you and explained, "Butterflies are meant to fly.  How would you feel if someone caged you?  You love to run.  Would you want to be caged where you couldn't run?"  You said, "OK, we can let the butterfly fly away."  Soon after, Nathan and his mommy arrived.  You took off running together.  It was cute to see you play, then come back to watch the butterflies released.

A few weeks ago your school hosted a trike-a-thon to raise money for St. Jude's Children's Hospital.  You resisted learning how to ride your trike.  It's a heavy duty good trike that Daddy bought for you when you were one.  You didn't want to learn, because you said it was too hard to push the pedals.

When you saw the picture of a boy with no hair, you asked me what was wrong with him.  (It was a poster for the St. Jude's Hospital fund raiser.)  Mommy explained that the trike-a-thon was to help children who were in the hospital for a long time and sometimes had to take medicine that made them lose their hair.  You said, "I want to ride my trike to help the kids in the hospital."  My eyes got a little teary.

You were good with your word.  We took your trike out to Oma's street where there's a church parking lot.  It was a little tough going at first, but once you got the hang of it,  you started going really fast.  You said, "I'm not giving up!"  And at school... for the trike-a-thon, you road your trike and did a beautiful job.  You came home, gave me a hug and whispered, "I helped those children at the hospital today, Mommy."  Thank you, sweet boy, for having a beautiful heart, loving and sharing and pushing past your fear to help those in need.  This is what your wonderful school, St. Augustine's, has blossomed in you.

This year you are advancing in so many ways.  Mrs. Becky, your teacher, said, "When he first came to us, he didn't differentiate at all."  We truly didn't know if you were going to be left or right handed. You will still use your right hand from time to time, but we are seeing the left hand being slightly more dominant.  Mrs. Becky advised that not having the differentiation early on is a natural time delay on handing writing skills.

We are working with you on writing your name at home.  When you want to do something, go to the park, outside to play, go to the strawberry patch, etc - first you have to write your name three times.  We practice the letters individually and then your name.  Today, you did such a good job, we high-5'd after each letter.  You smiled so much!  I was happy to see you enjoying writing.

We are fortunate, not only for the school that you attend, with a watchful teacher, but also with Oma and her teacher family.  Oma might be retired, but teachers don't lose touch.  I'm friends with some of Oma's teacher friends on Facebook and when I asked for ideas on handwriting - not only did friends respond, but Oma's teacher family did as well, both in posts and private messages with some very helpful ideas and support.  What an incredible blessing!

Mommy bought a fun book about planets.   Your class studied planets last week and you brought home a fun project that shows the earth going around the sun and the moon going around the earth.  You said, "The earth orbits around the sun."  I asked you, "Is the sun a planet or a star?"  You said, "A star!"  When I asked you what's the biggest planet, you knew it was Jupiter.  And when Mommy asked you, "What is the planet that looks like Mommy's favorite color?"  You thought for a minute and said, "Mars, but you like Saturn more, because of the rings.  Mommy, did you know the rings are made out of rocks?"  Smart boy!

Next year, you will go to St. Augustine's.  In some way, I feel that we, as parents, let you down, because you were accepted into St. Martin's.  But even with financial assistance, we didn't know if we could budget for it.  After considering the options, we decided that it would be best if you stayed at St. Augustine's for the last year there and we would budget ourselves for St. Martin's for the following year.  It will be more difficult for you to get into St. Martin's on the kindergarten level.  If you don't get accepted the following year, it will make me sad.

St. Augustine's is a wonderful school and you are learning a lot, progressing in so many beautiful ways.  We are happy with the decision and hopeful with your future at St. Martin's as well as our ability to budget for the school.  If not St. Martin's, then we will research more for where you will go.

In the meantime, you have Easter parties, Easter egg hunts, family gatherings, swimming lessons, tee-ball games, reading programs and plenty of art projects and handwriting lessons to fill up your summer.

Your life is well-rounded and your character is developing in a loving way.  You are confident enough to be contradictory, but you are also learning how to be respectful.  You are rough and tumble with the older kids and children your age, yet you don't mind doing baby talk, silly goofy, with the little ones.

When we asked you if you would help your cousin, TJ, learn how to use the potty, you said, "Sure!  Just pull down your pants, stand next to the potty and pee!"  You make us laugh.  Always loving smiles, quick with hugs and eager to learn.  We want the most for you, sweet son.

Love Always,

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Letter to my son

Dear Son,

The last of the parades was this past weekend.  We didn't go to it.  But you enjoyed parades this season, including the one at your school.  Mommy was able to be there.  In fact, Mommy was able to spend time with you at school for some of your regular activities.

I go by many names, "Aleta, daughter, Lester's daughter, teacher's daughter, sister, wife, mommy" and it's cute to add "Gregory's Mommy" to the list.  Your classmates know me as your mommy and I feel very welcomed by them, always with smiles and waves, sometimes even hugs.

Since the last letter, you had your 4 year old doctor appointment.  You did great, until Daddy said you would have shots.  Then, you were a mess, constantly saying, "I don't want shots!"  Daddy said you had to be a big boy and face it, but even the doctor said, "immunization" rather than the word "shot" to you.  Your weight was taken, as well as your height - both are right in the middle of the growth chart.  The doctor was very pleased.  Your vision checked at 20/20.  And your hearing, not a surprise, was perfect.

When we asked how your appointment went, you said, "Not so great.  Because of the shots."  I don't know if you even felt the first one, but the second was miserable.  After the second shot, the third was a mass of 3 parents (Oma was there too) and 2 nurses holding down a 4 year old.  Thankfully no more shots until you turn 11.  Whew.

We went to a Chinese restaurant and you told Opa all about the shots.  Mommy gave you three pennies to drop into the pond.  Three pennies for three wishes, because of the three shots.

At 40 pounds, you no longer need to be in a car seat.  Now you are in a booster chair and you know how to buckle and unbuckle your seatbelt.  You also know the rules.  You don't take off the buckle until we tell you to do so.  You also don't lock the doors when they unlock!  (You did that once to Mommy after she already got out of the car.)

You are also undressing yourself, bathing yourself, drying yourself, getting dressed by yourself.  Sometimes, though, you don't mind help.  But most of the time, you like being an independent big boy.

Recently the library had a book sale.  We went with Oma to see what treasures we could find.  I was prepared for you to say, "Mommy, I'm bored.  Let's go."  Instead, you dove into the books.  You put so many books in our box that we had to go back through the box and see what we would actually purchase.  You would find a book and say, "This is the perfect book!  It's about baby animals!"  You would plead for other books.  The ladies around us smiled, "He is so cute."  "It's wonderful that simple things like books make him happy."  "Look at his beautiful blonde hair."  You weren't just well behaved, you were happy to be with us and go through the books.  Your joy brought joy to others.

Mommy really wanted to go to the India Festival at NOMA.  This wasn't Daddy's cup of tea, but he brought us, knowing how much Mommy wanted to go.  Poor Daddy fell and scratched up both knees.  You are "Dr. Gregory" for Daddy - helping to put ointment on his knees (which are healing).  The festival was filled with vibrant colors and spicy food.  What Mommy did, you wanted as well.  I had a henna design (moon and star) on my hand.  You wanted one and got a shark, which you proudly showed your friends later.  Mommy got the dot on her forehead.  We tried to say it was only for girls, but the lady giving them out said, "If he wants one, he can have one."  We didn't leave it on you for long.  Lol.

Some cute things to share...

Daylight saving time.  Spring forward.  It isn't easy on adults, worse for kids.  You know to look outside if it's getting dark to actually see if it's "time for bath and bed."  The morning after the clock change, you didn't want to wake up.  You said, 'But the sun isn't awake yet!"  How can a parent argue with that?

Daddy often is the one with the jokes.  But Mommy had a plan.  You almost gave it away.  We were working on a craft and joke for Daddy.  Daddy left his bedroom and went to the bathroom.  You ran around the house with your hands on your face.  You can't hide a secret, kiddo!  Daddy gave you a hug and you busted out, "We are not making ANYTHING."

This earned Mommy a stink eye from Daddy.  I told him he would see everything in the morning.  Actually, that's very accurate, as in.. 2 am.  The craft project was a Leprechaun hat made out of toilet paper, which was placed on the toilet top.  Then, we painted the bottom of your feet green and left Leprechaun prints on the toilet seat.  And we put green dye in the toilet water.  Daddy went to the bathroom at 2am and actually took a picture and posted it on Facebook.  It's good to surprise Daddy too.

While at Oma and Opa's house, you found some bubble wands.  Mommy said, "Bubble, Bubble, toil and trouble."  You repeated, "Bubble, Bubble, toilet trouble!"  Oma and Mommy laughed so hard we cried.  And yes.... bubbles could very possibly be toilet trouble.

The other morning, Daddy tried to wake you up by singing.  When you had enough, you said, "No more.  You're getting on my last nerd."  I guess we aren't too clear when we speak, but your choice of words are so funny.

However, not all things are cheerful.  Mommy was bringing you to school, taking the normal calm route.  When we were at the red light, full stop, we were hit from behind!  It was a hit and run.  Mommy  made sure you were okay, but was SO upset.  How could someone leave without checking to see if the people they hit needed help?  What's wrong with our society?  Son, if you are ever the cause of an accident, think of the people who you hurt.  Try to help them as best you can.

The ambulance and fire truck arrived quickly.  The EMT asked you questions, not Mommy.  The EMT turned to Mommy and said, "He had his seatbelt on.  Good job, Mommy.  He is a smart boy."  The firemen were happy to make you happy by allowing you to get on the fire truck.

Fortunately, there are good people in this world.  There was a witness to the accident and he took down the license plate number before it sped off.  He stayed with us until Daddy and the police officer arrived and gave information to confirm what happened.  Help people, sweet boy, even when you aren't in the accident.  You can't imagine how much this matters to those going through a situation.

You are learning how to have sweet manners.  You open doors for Mommy and say, "Ladies first."

You love making projects, playing games and practicing finding Easter eggs.  Yes, it's already that time again.  This year, you are more and more into what's going on around you.  Your eagerness and joy is contagious.  You love going to your friends birthday parties and singing them Happy Birthday.  We recently went to Harper King's birthday party at Storyland.  You've been there before, but this time... you remember the rhymes, which made the characters even more fascinating to you.

We received wonderful news that St. Martin's Episcopal School accepted you application.  Mommy and Daddy know you will receive a great education in a caring environment much like you have at St. Augustine's.  I'm praying financial aid comes through for us so that we can submit the final paperwork.

There are SO many events coming up in April.  I'm eager for you to enjoy as much as possible.  Sometimes it can be exhausting on the parents, but you love outings, seeing new things, you soak it up with smiles and son.... that's what makes it all worth it.

Love Always,

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Letter to my son

Dear Son,

While Mommy was driving, someone honked their horn.  You said, "They are saying Hello, Mommy."  I smiled, "Maybe they are."  You replied, "No, Mommy, I was joking.  They were being rude."  You make me laugh!  You like to test the waters with telling jokes, knowing you are meaning the opposite and then you end it with, "That was funny."

On Valentine's Day, mommy and daddy bought you a teddy bear holding a heart with candy inside.  You gave mommy a heart filled with Sponge Bob candy.  Of course, you wanted the Sponge Bob candy, but it was breakfast time.  I told you it was too early in the morning for candy.  Crossing your arms, stomping out of the room, you called out, "Well Fine!"  You went into your room.

You came out of your room and asked for candy again.  The scene repeated itself.  When you tried a third time, Mommy said, "If you keep asking, Mommy will get upset."  This is one of your tactics, keep trying and wear a person down.  It didn't work.  Mommy stayed calm, riding out your whining.

After a few minutes, you came up to me and said, "Mommy, I have something to tell you."  I said, "Okay, I'm listening."  You said in a sweet voice, "I'm sorry for being mad at you earlier."  I said, "Thank you for the apology."  You added, "Mommy, I have more to tell you."

Surely you weren't going to ask for candy again?!  You smiled, "I love you!" and you ran into my arms for a big bear hug.  It was the best Valentine's gift ever.   You melt my heart, sweet boy.

Such much happens around your birthday.  Four days before is Valentine's day - you loved helping Mommy make the Valentine's day bags for your school friends.  You and your schoolmates were very generous, coming home with all kinds of sweets, cards and toys.

On Thursday after Valentine's Day, Father AJ sent Mommy a text message that during Chapel Day, you received birthday blessings and you were really cute.  Oh, how I wish I could have been there to see that!

For Friday, you delivered the dinosaur cupcakes that Mommy made for your classroom.   You said that you had a birthday hat and a certificate and a ribbon from your teachers and everyone sang Happy Birthday.  You were so proud of the hat and gifts from your teachers!

A side note - a little after you birthday, you tripped and fell at the school playground.  You told Oma, "I had an icepack on my leg and everyone had to be super nice to me."  Again, your words are adorable.

Saturday, the 18th, was your birthday and you were SO excited.  Even with the carnival season in full swing and flu season on the rampage, thus making for some understood cancellations, you still had 18 kids and plenty of adults at your party.

This year, instead of having a celebration at home, we booked the "one hour flight time" at Sky Zone.  All kinds of trampolines and foam blocks and games were available.  As one father said, "This is a great place to have a party, better than at a home.  By the time you pay for a bounce house to be delivered and the food and prep the food and clean the house and have the party and then clean afterwards - it's all for the same price and this is a lot less hassle."  It was the first time we had a party away from the home and it was a happy success.  I loved seeing all of the smiles on the kids' faces.

Thinking about it, you had third cousins and fourth cousins that came to the party, pretty amazing and friends from Oma and Opa's street, lots of sweet schoolmates (all the parents and grandparents took their time and energy to bring the children, which is work and I'm grateful for that) and your grandparents and aunts and uncles - what an incredible blessing!

After the flight time, true to Mommy's promise to you, upstairs Mommy had the room decorated in dinosaur theme from a dinosaur banner to a dino wall scene, dino plates and napkin and..... Mommy baked a baby triceratops dinosaur (which Daddy said looked more like a cat Lol).  But you loved it and if you were happy with the cake, then so was I!

The next day, you brought dinosaur masks to share with your classmates as a "thank you" for coming to the party.  (We also had dino party favor bags, which you insisted that we make to share with your friends.  You are learning more social skills than I knew at your age!)

Soon after you birthday, we received a "waiting list" letter from the Magnet school that you applied for.  I was a little sad with the news, but also expecting it.  The day you took the test, Daddy asked Mommy where I thought you would place.  My response was, "He won't be in the top 80 spots, but he will rank high enough to be on the waiting list for acceptance."

Over 1500 children applied for 80 seats.  Your wait list position is seat 20.  So, out of 1500, you ranked at 100.  That's not shabby, sweet son.  You couldn't write your name, which is a skill set the magnet school wants you to have in pre-k.  I'm proud of you, Gregory.  My wish is for you to have a well-rounded education and a CHILDHOOD.  I say this to you, but believe me, I was stressing about the results of the Magnet school letter which said you are "Advanced" but you didn't reach the mark of "Very Advanced" which would have guaranteed a seat in the 80 positions available.

The middle of the bar was "Limited to Average" then "Average" then "Average to Advanced" then "Advanced" and highest "Very Advanced."  Placing second to highest for a 3 year old (that was the age you took the test) is pretty darn good.

Today, we went with Oma to the library.  You asked, out the blue, "Can we go to the library?"  Mommy said, "Actually, it's a good night to go, because they are doing the "Reading to Rover" program.  Do you want to read to a dog?"  If you had a tail, it would have wagged!

You grabbed your "B" book.  It was a story about "little b" who filled her box with a lot of things, such as bees, baby baboons, bears, bananas - it is a cute adventure story.

And... you read the story to a dog named, Benny.  He loved the story so much that he rolled over for a tummy rub.  You did so well with reading the words that Benny's owner asked you, "Do you like to read?"  You said, "Yes."

She then asked, "How old are you?"  You were eager to share your big boy age, "Four!"  Mommy added, "He JUST turned four."  The lady looked at Mommy and said to you, "You are reading way before you are supposed to."

So, Magnet school.... I have a four letter F word for you... Fool.

Sorry, that was mean of Mommy.  You learn quickly, son, when it's something you are interested in.   You fight us on writing your name.  Part of the problem is you don't have the strength in your hands yet.  We are working on that too.  But I'm not going to sacrifice your childhood to become a stressed out overachiever.  You need laughter and learning.  We'll find the right balance for you.

In the meantime... there are friends' parties to attend, visits with family planned and Mardi Gras parades at your school.  Continue to love life and listen to conversations and soak in the world around you.... and.... as you did this evening.... take the time to enjoy a beautiful sunset.

Love Always,