A Month of Lasts

This month has marked a watershed of life changes. I think I’ve been handling it admirably.

Hah, I’m kidding. I just like looking at Robert Downey, Jr. But there’s been a lot of reflection: my babies…really aren’t. Aside from half a Rubbermaid tub of keepsakes, all the baby clothes are gone. All the cloth diapers (aside from prefolds that I use for cleaning) have been sold or given away. The co-sleeper is gone. Moira does not enjoy the Ergo anymore. Maggie is full-on five now, and Moira is a huge-for-her-age two-year-old with confidence and personality even bigger than her size.

But that’s how it’s supposed to go; progress is progress, can’t stop time, so on, blah blah, where’s Robert Downey, Jr again?

Ahhh.

Anyway. I’m loving this stage. Moira still has that toddler lisp, which makes asking for Hello Kitty special underpants–a treat to her–a true delight: “I need my Hello Titty special teats!” (No one ever said I was mature.) It’s just dozens and dozens of tiny pink underpants in the laundry now–nary a cloth diaper to be seen.

This month Moira finished up her toddler group, where I’ve taken her on Tuesdays for the last year and done a sensory table (cloud dough, water beads, rainbow rice, painting bags, slime, scented play dough) monthly. It was the kind of loud, raucous group Maggie wouldn’t have liked, so when Maggie started 3x/week full days I started taking Moira. Moira walked in, threw up her hands like “MY PEOPLE!” and I didn’t see her for the next two hours.

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Her other last was Little Gym toddler class. Little Gym’s parent/child classes run up to age 36 months. Because Maggie will be home in the fall and Moira is…well, see below:

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Her size and confidence (and mid-November birthday) allowed her to jump up to the age 3-5 combined class with Maggie starting in September. That gives me until April to have an hour-long class hanging out by myself before Maggie moves up to the next age level, . But gone are the days of parent-child clapping and facilitating; Moira’s on her own (albeit with sister) now.

This was also her last term as an non-enrolled student. This September Moira starts at the same preschool Maggie’s attended for the last three years. And speaking of lasts, that’s the biggest: Maggie graduated from that lovely little school, the little school that was so helpful and instrumental in getting us a diagnosis and the teachers who were so supportive while we tried to find our way. Maggie was at home there, but she agreed that she’s ready to go. I mean, look at this face. This is not a preschooler’s face anymore.

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It was time to move on, and now it’s Moira’s turn. She had her first two trial sessions and did beautifully. We got the same report for Moira we’ve been getting from her Little Gym instructors and others who encounter her: “She moves so confidently!” Quite. See above.

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So there we are. The beauty of time, marching on, and growth and progress. It’s a gorgeous, bittersweet, sad and thrilling and happy time for my girls. With all these lasts, it only means a new series of fascinating firsts lie ahead for them. Keeping that in mind, I’ll find a way through…

…With a little RDJ to assist.

The Road Back Home

At the beginning of June, we assured Margaret we’d know where she was going to school in September by the time we had to turn another calendar page. About a week before our deadline, we notified the local county that we were withdrawing Margaret’s application and making our plans to homeschool official.

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We had always wanted to try homeschooling. The world’s our oyster, we’re young, the kids are young, we have steady income, why not? Why not just be flexible and live how we want to live? Why be beholden to a school schedule? Then Margaret got her autism diagnosis and the plans came crashing down. Did we have what it takes to homeschool a child with her particular set of needs and accommodations? More to the point, did I have what it took? Tom works full time keeping us afloat, and aside from history (which I made clear is and always will be entirely his domain) I’d be doing all the teaching. Could I? Am I good enough? For a long time the answer was no.

Then we started an occupational therapy routine. We socialized. We did more at home. Quality time is Maggie’s currency and we used it to find joyous, playful ways of integrating therapy tasks that were fun for her. While I was worried about her learning to use a pencil and write her letters, she began to do it anyway. Ditto numbers and phonics.

If there’s only one takeaway, it is this: while you worry and wait and fuss, things will happen anyway.

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There was a lot of bureaucratic hoopla (North Yorkshire’s) and yelling (mine) trying to secure a Year One (that’s the equivalent of kindergarten to you Yanks) spot for Maggie, but it’s not important now. What IS important is that she loved her little Montessori school. She absolutely adored it. She liked the games, the puzzles, the play, the independent focus. Maggie was happy there.

But.

When it came to more academic pursuits, she bristled. Finally, after years of attendance, she was able to tell me that trying to learn to read and do math with so many classroom distractions made her feel “funny in my belly and wrong in my head.” It was just a few short weeks before the end of her last term so I didn’t bother passing that information on. It was enough to know she was loved, socializing, and enjoying the outdoors with her friends. Sums and phonics could wait.

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Ultimately, it came down to this: we want to be together. We want to do this. There are a hundred other small factors contributing to the decision to keep her home, but knowing I can give her that one-on-one time to mature (we’ve got loads going on socially, don’t you worry) and ease into academics in a low-stress environment gives us all great peace. Maggie is annoyed that she isn’t going to a particular district school, but it happens to be a school that told me early on that they were completely full. I can tell her without a hint of dishonesty that she was never ever going to go there anyway. I sensed she’s disappointed, but when pressed she said “I want to stay home with you and you can be my class teacher and the house will be my class palace. Please? I’ll be a good learner.”

That was the end of the line. We notified the district two days later.

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We have a classroom palace in our attic. Maggie helped me choose the decor and set it up. It’s full of games, bright markers, a giant map of America, an iPad, and her Lego collection for when she’s done. It’s become the nexus of the house; the girls love spending time up there and the four of us can often be found cramming in under the eaves, opening the skylights, and enjoying our little “classroom palace.”

Really, it was all over when Maggie named our home and our homeschool room.

I don’t know what I can give her. Time will tell if I’m good enough for this job. But in the end, she gets to have her start in a self-named palace of learning. And she’ll have love.

And, I hope, nothing wrong in her head.