Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Oskar Turns 5

Dear Oskar,

You’re F I V E. You’ve been asking, “When is it going to be June?” ever since Christmas, so a small piece of me is relieved to finally say, “NOW! It’s June NOW!” Spring flew by and here we are, on your golden birthday, 5 whole years on June 5. 

Your days start with the sun, though recently, you’ve been sneaking into our bed sometime in the middle of the night, your need for closeness stronger than ever. Always, always snuggling, always holding hands. You’re up and raring to go at 6 but know full well that we very much ARE NOT. Your birthday party theme this year is “Power Rangers”, which makes us laugh since nobody else has really seen an episode—this show belongs to you and you alone between the hours of 6-7am. Sometimes I swear you’re going to be one of those geniuses who need 4 hours of sleep to survive.

School fills your time on 3 weekdays, which has given you both some needed structure and a social outlet with a group of little best friends that you adore. Both you and I thrive on routine, predictability, and your days at school totally fill that need for you. You, all by yourself, though, taught yourself to READ this year. It’s truly blown us all away. We started with a pack of 100 sight words, which you mastered at 4.5. You now read every single Elephant and Piggie or Dr. Seuss book there is, and being read to by my not-even-5-year-old before bedtime makes us swell with pride. You, Oskar, are amazing.

You’re more full of life than ever, and truly LIVE every single second of every single day. You’re always going, always moving, perpetual motion, just like your dada used to be. When you’re not at school, you’re swimming, running, jumping, wrestling, or zooming around on your bike that you learned to ride without training wheels this spring. You need outlets to your energy, and totally shine when you have them, and have a hard time when you don’t. I wish I could have just a piece of it. 

You’re still a builder—blocks, LEGOs, Lincoln Logs, Magna-Tiles, anything, really…so much so that you want to be an Architect Teacher (VERY specific), when you grow up. I tried teaching you the word Professor, but you weren’t having it. 

You’re still very sensitive, my little empath. You get frustrated when you’re not the best at something, your feelings get so hurt if you feel excluded, and you totally crumble when you get corrected by your dada or me. You need approval, the need to be reminded how loved you are, and to feel a sense of security. Words of affirmation and physical touch are your love languages and are so very important to you. You’re always nervous to try new things and there’s nothing you love more than being home, but we’ve found that when we push you, it really does wonders for you.  

You and your brother are up and down, hot and cold, a million times a day. You fight about nearly everything but you can’t stand being apart. August wants to be just like you, and nothing makes him happier than your approval. You love to tackle or wrestle with each other and I’ve come to accept this penance as a mom of boys. After bath time, in pajamas, you two are always in your prime, making each other laugh so hard that I wish I could bottle it up. 

You’re on to a practice year of Kindergarten at your daycare center next year before heading to public Kindergarten the fall after turning 6. It was such a debate on what to do this coming school year, but now that the decision is made, I’m feeling so relieved to have just one more year before the start of something so monumental. You’ll keep going to music class and karate on days that you’re home, two hobbies that you’ve continued through another year.

This year has taken my you, my little boy, and turned you into such a big kid. Hanging out with you feels more and more like hanging out with my best friend, which has to be the best part about watching you grow.

When I think back to the day that you were born, I had no idea what you had in store for us. How much you’d challenge my sanity, my patience, and push me to my breaking point, over and over again. But I also couldn’t have possibly known how it feels to have your heart walking outside of your body, how we would give anything, everything, to have you be happy and healthy. Those same blue eyes that looked straight into my soul 5 years ago are still the most beautiful eyes I’ve seen. And when they laugh, our whole world lights up. Happy 5th birthday, my baby boy. May all your dreams come true. 


Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Father's Day Gift Guide

Today's post brought to you by all of Matt's favorite (or most wished for) things. Here they are, in no particular order, if you're looking for some inspiration for a dad in your life.

1. Portable Speaker: The best thing since sliced bread. This portable Bluetooth speaker lives outside at our house, and since it’s fully waterproof and even submergible, you don’t have to worry about forgetting it in the rain (guilty with the last one). We play our favorite playlists—or more realistically, Kids Bop—and keep the party outside during these nice weather months.

2. Frame and Storage for Kids’ Artwork: This is in the lineup for Matt this year, which can store up to 100 pieces of kids’ artwork and display whichever one is up front. Oskar loves to draw pictures for Matt to hang in his office, and this way, he can keep them all. We’ll be adding Oskar’s rendition of dada the doctor to this frame, which I think is a sweet idea—to have your kiddos draw their dad at work to then hang in their office.

3. Golf Pants: Don’t get me started on how obsessed Matt is with these golf pants. He turns into the daddest dad every time he wears them. “Touch these. No seriously. Can you believe how light these are?” And repeat. It’s true, they are SUPER lightweight and breathable for any dads that golf. The hype is real... 

4. Matching Dad and Kid Socks: One of my all time favorite Father’s Day gift ideas: matching father and son (or daughter!) socks. Oskar is thrilled every time they head out to work and school while twinning.

5. Lacoste Watch: Classic and sharp, you can’t go wrong.

6. A Man and His Watch: This book was made for Matt, so adding it here if it resonates with any dads in your life, too. This book tells the story of 76 different watches and the iconic people who wore them (and why).

7. Coffee Subscription: Loving this idea to add a fun twist on an every day staple.

8. Personalized Toiletry Bag: Super classy and sleek, these personalized toiletry bags come in tons of shapes and sizes.

9. Rugged and Dapper Toiletry Set: A fun little travel set to throw into that personalized toiletry bag, or to gift ahead of summer vacation season if you’re heading out of town.

10. Molkky: The best yard game that ever was. I grew up playing this in Finland and it’s finally made its way to the USA, and even to Amazon. So freaking fun and requires no athletic ability—check plus.

11. Puma Slides: Should’ve saved our pairs from the 90s, since what’s old is new. These are the shoes thrown on most often by Matt as we chase kids around outside. Pair them with some board shorts and a towel, and you have yourself a nice summery gift.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Why We’re Choosing Not to Send our 5 Year Old to Kindergarten

A note before I begin. Who knew this was such a hot topic? I never knew there were so many OPINIONS out there about this, but whew! Here is ours, and why we’re choosing not to send Oskar, who turns 5 in June, to kindergarten just a few months later. I fully understand that every child (and parent!) is different, and if you’re making a different choice, I’m absolutely sure it’s the right one for you. I’m sharing here only to offer our perspective, some food for thought, and ultimately, what we felt was best for OUR child in hopes that this can help anybody still on the fence when Googling and reading and gathering different points of view. Also, the fact that we mulled this over for SO LONG means that there are definite advantages to sending vs. red-shirting, so this is certainly not black and white, by any means. All this said, here goes!

1. There’s a high rate of delayed entry in our township. Truth be told, we were fully expecting to send him to kindergarten until the parents of his classmates in his current Pre-K class told me that it was much less common to send children with summer birthdays than it used to be. During our registration meeting at the public school (because I went ahead and registered him anyway, to keep our options open), the kindergarten teacher I met with told me she only had one or two students with birthdays after April in her classroom that year.

2. He’d be 5 for almost the entire school year, where many children have already turned 6 or will turn 6 over the course of the year. Months, and certainly a year, make an enormous difference in terms of maturity, patience, and CONFIDENCE. We had to decide whether we wanted him to be 10 months younger or 10 months older than some of his peers. When we looked at it this way, the answer started to become more clear. Interestingly, several teachers also told me that this age gap isn't always noticeable in Kindergarten, but becomes much more obvious in 3rd and 4th grade.

3. Social readiness. While he shines academically, he’s extremely sensitive, internalizes nearly everything, and can be shy. We also know, on the flip side, that he makes an amazing leader when he feels comfortable in what he’s doing. We want him to be able to walk tall into a classroom and be an active participant in his learning. To not only enthusiastically raise his hand, but to help and guide others as well. This is when we know he’ll be at his very best.

4. The 3 best educational systems in the world (Finland, Switzerland, and Belgium) ALL begin schooling at 6 years or later. Sure, I may be comparing apples to oranges here, but I truly believe there’s something to this formula that works well. Learning through play, creativity, innovation, and time outdoors are strongly emphasized, and longer lesson hours, homework, and teaching to a standardized test are discouraged if not completely eliminated. Kindergarten in the US has become so much more than coloring and recess, with rigid curriculums and teaching to what was a 1st or even a 2nd grade level back when I was growing up. According to researchers, since the late 1990s, the expectations teachers have for kindergarteners has become tremendously higher and more focused on reading and math over social skills. At the same time, unstructured play time, art and social interaction has greatly decreased. Am I all for reading and math? Of course. And honestly, Oskar already DOES read at a Kindergarten + level. However, these subjects seem to be taught at the expense of all of the other things that are so critically important and developmentally necessary for a 5 year old brain, and I want to continue to give them to him for another year, if I can.

5. I’ll never wonder if I should’ve sent him. My final takeaway was this one. I’m saving myself all of the worry on whether I’m doing the right thing, because when he goes at 6 years old, I’ll KNOW he’s ready a hundred times over. While I don't want to discredit how incredibly smart he already is, I know that he'll only succeed that much more, given another year.

So, there are all of my jumbled up thoughts that have been bouncing around in my head for months now, written out as clearly as I could manage. Again, this is not meant to sway you, but to shed some light on our decision and how our upcoming year will look. 

So, what WILL we do instead of kindergarten? Well, kindergarten. Kind of :). His current daycare center has an accredited kindergarten classroom, and he'll attend there for 3 days a week as a preparatory year for when he begins 5 days a week at our public school after turning 6. We didn't want to keep him in a Pre-K classroom for another year because: 1) We feel as though he's mastered those skills and is ready for something new, and 2) Because they are required, by PA law, to have a designated nap time for Pre-K students, and we're well past that now.  We think this bonus year will challenge him while offering him an ideal balance of school AND at-home play, where he'll be with my mom and little brother August doing all of those things mentioned above, like riding bikes, attending a music class, and going to karate.

So, there you have it. Let me know if you're in the same summer-birthday boat, and what you've decided on for Kindergarten this fall!

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