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,


Laura said...

I love reading your blog and have been doing so since before your pregnancy. Your son is truly going to treasure these letters when he gets older! You are right in that life is short, and we have no idea what the future holds! I lost most of my vision a few months ago, and my world has been turned upside down. Reading your blog truly gives me great joy! Thank you!

Aleta said...

I'm so sorry for your vision loss. I can't imagine the changes taking place in your life. Prayers for you. If my blog brings you joy, then your joy gives me joy too.

Laura said...

Aleta, don't feel sorry. It just is what it is. I was fired from a job I hated. That was a blessing, in a lot of ways. I am back in school and I have 15 hours until I finish my degree. My husband and I are closer and I have learned how to use public transportation. The worst part is not driving, but Uber and Metro (I live in DC) are my new best friends! The sight I have left is good and my disability payments start next month, so all is good!