A Very Kindergarten Week

It started with Benji laughing hysterically. He wanted to tell me a story about something that had happened at school, but it cracked him up so much he could hardly get the words out.

Finally, he managed to calm down enough to gasp out the facts: When they got their turn with a school iPad, he and a friend took a picture (or pictures?) of Benji’s bottom with the camera app. I laughed, too — and then suddenly a sobering thought struck me.

“You had your pants on, right?”

“Yeah, like this –” …and he proceeds to drop his drawers and give me a full moon.

So, yes… for definitions of “wearing pants” that don’t strictly include covering your bare buns.

The next morning the seriousness had sunk in, and I realized I had to call the teacher. We couldn’t have other kids using that iPad and getting an eyeful! I called the teacher and she expressed the level of horror, shock, and astonishment I probably should’ve felt the previous evening when I honestly had just laughed with incredulity.

Needless to say, after wiping all the iPads, the teacher had a special consequence for Benji and his friend. They stayed in from recess for a private lesson on, well, keeping privates private. When I talked with him that evening, Benji told me he wished he hadn’t done it, so I figure we’re probably safe from that exact thing happening again.

Goodness only knows what’s coming next.

Well, actually, I know, because it came already. Every Monday and Friday we have dessert with dinner — literally with, contemporaneous, simultaneously to eating our pasta, etc. Well, Benji and mom had this brilliant idea of having ice cream sundaes for dessert.

Oh, it was a glorious sight: A real sundae dish, filled with three scoops of Neapolitan ice cream, topped with banana, strawberries, canned cherry pie filling, and crushed pineapple, and the whole thing liberally drizzled with chocolate sauce.

Benji slayed it. Took no prisoners. Licked that dish clean. There was nary a sundae molecule left to be seen when he finished. After which he asked to be excused, and we figured — well, occasionally you get dessert for dinner.

When we got home, though, he started complaining about his stomach hurting. He kept complaining, and curled up on the floor instead of changing out of his clothes, taking a bath, getting on pajamas, or brushing teeth.

Which made a whole lot more sense when, after finishing his quick bath, he vomited right into the toilet. Chocolate-colored vomit came out his mouth and his nose, a real double whammy. I won’t describe any more, but suffice it to say that after two very thorough rounds of throwing up, I seriously doubt much sundae remained in his stomach.

“I don’t ever want to eat ice cream ever again,” he told me, midway through this ordeal. Then, giving me a window into his mind, he said, “I’m sticking with Tillamookies. They’ve never steered me wrong.” I refrained from pointing out that they, too, contain ice cream.

Finally I got him into bed and calmed down (vomiting like that really is enough to ruffle anyone’s feathers), and he went to sleep very quickly.

So, I guess we’ve all learned something:

  1. Don’t take pictures of your bare ass, especially on public computers.
  2. Don’t eat excessive amounts of sugar.

Truly, everything you need to know, you learn in kindergarten.

Why We Keep Teeth

Benji has lost four teeth so far, the front two in the top and bottom. Before he lost his first tooth, which came out at the end of June last year, we prepped him with the hard reality that there is no Tooth Fairy. We are the Tooth Fairy, I told him. This didn’t faze him, as long as a prize appears overnight in place of his tooth.

We also skipped the tooth-under-the-pillow shenanigans, and instead have a special jar to contain the tooth. The jar sits outside Benji’s bedroom door, making it nice and easy for the “Tooth Fairy” (he still wants to pretend, even though he knows it’s us) to make the swap.

So: Today Benji lost his fourth tooth, the final front top one.

Benji with top and bottom front teeth missing.

This means my human tooth collection now expands to four. Yep; I’ve kept all Benji’s baby teeth so far.

Not that long ago, my mother gave me a baggie of my own baby teeth that she’d kept for nearly 30 years. She’s not alone: I have anecdotally heard of lots of parents who keep their kids’ teeth.

Which got me thinking: Why do I keep these nasty relics?

It’s bizarre and rather gross. These aren’t exactly the crown jewels here, y’know?

But today I think I figured out why I, at least, feel irrationally reluctant to just toss those teeth in the garbage (compost? I guess they’re probably compostable… eventually; they are organic, but like shells probably don’t decompose much, hence teeth in skulls thousands of years later… Maybe if you crushed them up…. Hmmm)

Sorry, back from my tangent! It was interesting, but as I was saying, I think I feel reluctant to get rid of Benji’s baby teeth because they represent, at a very visceral level, his childhood — and losing them emphasizes both his maturing and how quickly it’s happening. A baby getting his first tooth is exciting, and often much celebrated, but not nostalgic. It happens in that 18 months of insanity that all parents survive with only vague, hazy memories.

A kid losing his baby teeth, on the other hand, is leaving babyhood behind. He’s growing up, maturing, and becoming increasingly independent. He’s had those baby teeth for five, six, seven years — long enough that they feel like part of who he is. Losing them is an exciting and healthy but somewhat heart-wrenching step towards becoming a new person.

So! No wonder it’s hard to chuck those baby teeth without a qualm: They’re all tied up with all the fraught emotions of memories of a child as a baby, and anticipation of the future and a child growing up. We’re great at celebrating this step for kids, but I wonder if there would be some way for parents to celebrate this, too, a way that acknowledges the more complex feelings potentially tied up in these little teeth… but that also gets rid of them in the end, too.

Snuggle Heaven

Before Christmas I bought a red/green/blue projection light to decorate a wall at work. We only ever turned it on a couple times; it distracted the people sitting nearby. Today we took our Christmas decorations down and I brought home the projection light for Benji’s room.

I had a kind of idea it might work as a dimmer night-light than his zillion-lumen pink LED lightbulb, pictured below. That light is so bright you can literally read by its light.

Zillion Lumen Pink Lamp

For the time being, until we could get the projection light mounted more officially, I just jammed it between his dresser and wall. Then I called Benji in to see.

His 100% instantaneous, unalloyed reaction: “It’s heaven!”

Heavenly Light

He later clarified that it was actually snuggle heaven, and we played a game where one of us was St. Peter standing outside the door asking why the other person should be let in to snuggle heaven. Once in snuggle heaven, you get to toss snuggles and bedding all over the room and snuggle around anywhere you want while gazing at the mesmerizing light.

In short, I’d say so far it’s a much greater success at home than it ever was at work.

I is for Ice Cream Sandwich

We have a cookbook from my childhood that’s an alphabet cookbook. It has 26 recipes, each one starting with one letter of the alphabet. I actually use the Wonderful Waffles recipe as my go-to when we make waffles — it’s pretty good! I also like the Oatmeal Pancakes, which are heartier (probably not healthier) pancakes that include quick oats.

Not surprisingly, Benji has decided he wants to cook every recipe in the book.

More surprisingly, he doesn’t care to do them in alphabetical order. Instead, he’s picking and choosing the order he wants to do them in.

Not surprisingly, he’s picking desserts first.

Thus, today we started with I, Ice Cream Sandwiches.

The recipe is super easy:

Step 1: Make peanut butter cookies and let them cool all the way.

Ice Cream Sandwiches: Step 1

Step 2: Plop a blob of soft ice cream between two cookies and re-freeze them.

Ice Cream Sandwiches: Step 2

Step 3: Melt chocolate chips and dip frozen cookie goodness into the chocolate. Re-freeze again before eating.

Ice Cream Sandwiches

Step 4: Enjoy frozen chocolaty, peanutty, vanilla-y goodness.

Ice Cream Sandwiches: Success

Merry Christmas

Another Christmas has come and gone, and we’re approaching the New Year. It was a tough season, with my crushing work deadlines running right up to January 1; we didn’t do all the decorating and hoo-rah that we normally do, but you know what? As the Grinch discovered,

“[Christmas] came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes, or bags!”

He puzzled and puzzed till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!

The inestimable Dr. Seuss

This year we made generous donations on behalf of the adults in our family, with very small token gifts for each person. My employer matches 100% of donations up to $2,500 total, so we made sure to do donations through their system and double the dollars. I felt pretty smart about that.

Benji received Pokemon pajamas, Pokemon cards, and a Pokemon book he really wanted. Commence the Poke-mania.

Christmas evening Colleen and Jordan joined us, fresh from their flight from LA, and we celebrated with our traditional Happy Birthday, Jesus! Birthday Cake:

Happy Birthday Jesus, 2018

On December 26, my entire side of the family, including Colleen and Jordan, went to Lopez Island for four nights. I’ve made some tough choices and culled down to one picture per day.

Going to Lopez Ferry Puzzle
We got started on a 1,000 piece puzzle on the ferry to Lopez. Sadly it’s only 40 minutes, so we didn’t get that far; plus, we suspect some of the pieces were missing.
Lopez Loop: Iceberg Point
On Thursday morning Dad and I went for a 45-mile ride around Lopez Island. We started in the dark and got to see the sunrise. We went slow, but appreciated every beautiful minute.
Yule Log
On Friday it rained ceaselessly. Benji went a little stir-crazy, but Colleen and I did manage to squeeze in the time to make a Yule Log, which we’d planned well in advance. It turned out beautiful and delicious.
Shark Reef
On Saturday it rained hard most of the day, but in the morning we got out to Shark Reef before the rain started. It’s a tiny park with a minimal hike but a truly spectacular view. My phone camera really couldn’t do it justice. The Olympics, the sunrise, the currents, sea lions and eagles and enough moss and lichen to warm any botanist’s heart.
Ferry Home
On Sunday morning just Benji, Ian, and I caught the 9:30 ferry back home. We got in line an hour early, so we arrived just after sunrise, and again got some wonderful views. The San Juan Islands really do spoil a person for natural beauty.

Not pictured:

  • The countless hours Colleen and Benji played Pokemon, with Benji being different pokemons (Bulbasaur, Pikachu, Jiggly-Puff, and Charmander, I believe) and Colleen acting as the trainer;
  • Playing lots of board games, including Shadows in the Forest (cool concept but a rocky execution), Tofu Kingdom, Azul, and Mole Rats in Space (we lost two consecutive games, much to our astonished dismay);
  • Doing two puzzles, including one 1,000-piece puzzle in one day (Benji “helped” by taking pieces apart — gah!!);
  • Going out for walks in the dark and rain;
  • Going out for walks in the dim and cloudy;
  • Benji sleeping on a pile of pillows in the closet of our master bedroom and waking us up at the crack of dawn even on vacation (gah again!);
  • Watching a couple of the new season of Mystery Science Theater episodes (Mac & Me and Atlantic Rim — both truly terrible, as expected);
  • The amazingly uncomfortable “carpet” made out of what appeared to be rope, and an entry way made of the same large aggregate cement they use in driveways, truly a brutal floor for bare feet;
  • Lovely views from the beach-front side of the house;
  • The bazillion times we reminded Benji to please be quiet, because Jordan and Colleen were still “sleeping” (I seriously doubt there was a lot of sleeping going on after 6:30 am, but the thought was there).

We left the island a little earlier than anticipated, at 9:30 am rather than 1:30 pm, and that was a good call. We got home in time to rest and reset, and Colleen, Jordan, and my parents joined us just in time for Indian food dinner and one last game of Pokemon-and-trainer.

Overall, a good but exhausting trip. Now do I get a vacation to recover from my vacation?

First Day of Kindergarten (round 2)

Yesterday Benji finally started full-day kindergarten at our local elementary school. The last week or so my Facebook feed has filled with moms posting pictures of their kids going to school for the first time, nearly all of them posed in their school regalia with a sign saying something like “Benji’s First Day of Kindergarten, September 11, 2017.” The caption almost always says something like, “I can’t believe how my baby has grown up so fast!”

While I empathize with the sentiment, this school year starting hasn’t fazed us that much. It’s a new school, yes, and a new teacher, new kids — all these make it challenging. But we’ve sent Benji to some kind of preschool for the last three years, and the year before that he did a mini-school program at Kindering. Plus he did daycare for a couple years and Y summer camp for about eight weeks this summer.

This all adds up to us feeling pretty sanguine about starting kindergarten at public school. In so many ways, we’ve practiced and prepared for this transition for years. Now it’s here, and it’s no big deal — or, at least, no bigger deal than any other similar transition.

What I am glad about, though, is deciding to wait to start kindergarten at age six. Not only did it let Benji practice and learn a lot of academic material last year, but he’s shown huge growth in maturity in the last couple months. I’m really glad we gave him time to mature a bit more before leaping into the demands of five days a week of all-day school.

I’m also really glad we did Y camp this year. I can’t overstate how great it was for him. It basically served as practice kindergarten with no pressure. The adults really helped the kids get ready for the amount of independence kindergartners get at school. I was really impressed.

So between half-day kindergarten last year and all-day Y camp this summer, yes, Benji is ready to do well at school this year. And I haven’t felt the need to shed even one single tear.