Monday, January 27, 2014

New Year's Reflections 2013 - Boots' Year

As this year came to a close, I thought a lot about where it went and came up kinda empty... So I decided to fish some of the year's highlights out of clutter in my head and hang them up with magnets on my Internet fridge, where others can enjoy them.

I’m organizing them in a series of posts, one for each family member. Then I’ll finish up with our hopes for the next year.

I’ll start with Danielle, because she consumes about 80% of my mental resources. Then I’ll be able to relax and give everyone else the attention their stories deserve.


***
Kindergarten
As the year started Danielle was midway through her Kindergarten year. The bus picked her up in the morning at 7:10 and dropped her off at 11:20. She would ask me, “Does the day seem short to you too, Mama?”

Yep.

She loved her teacher, so did I, and she also enjoyed art and playtime.

Her teacher loved her too. During our parent teacher conference, she praised Danielle's helpfulness, willingness to follow direction, and she said she was one of the quiet ones in a very noisy class. I asked if we were here for Danielle Wachsmuth's conference.

She said, “Oh, yes.”

I was proud, but a little bemused as to how my spirited, rambunctious little girl, who speaks only at full volume, could contain all that for the school day. I decided I didn't care, I was glad she was well behaved at school and exercises her other qualities with me at home. It was nice knowing that she has those skills, and that she chooses to use them when she needs them most.

Having a kid in school is a whole new realm in parenting for Charley and me. After spending the last five years endeavoring to get Danielle to sleep, and to stay asleep past 4:30 a.m., it felt wrong to wake her up at six to get ready for school. Sometimes I'd let her keep sleeping until the last possible moment, then I'd wake her up, animate her little body through getting dressed, hair brushed, and fed, then drive her to school to just barely make the 7:45 bell.  The irony that now she wants to sleep in was not lost on me.

I noticed that kids don't get homework anymore, the family gets homework. Such as reading with your child for fifteen minutes everyday, and math games you play with a parent, etc. It's OK, just different.

Then there's new social problems like, “Mom, Gracin is mad at me because she thought I chased her at recess. What do I do?” And, “Mom, there's a kid who bothers me and my friends and recess everyday. He won't go away. What do I do?” Honestly? I had no idea. If a friend was mad at me, then I'd just wait until she wasn't mad anymore.  I never knew what to do when I was bullied. I'd usually cry.  Clueless. Determined to give Danielle some help, I did lots of thinking and research, and happily things all worked out in the end. Now I know how to coach her on effective things to say when being bullied, or when a misunderstanding with a friend happens. I also learned the protocol for involving the school administration, and when, and who, and how, to ask for help. I could write an article to help other parents with newly minted school age children...  I sure needed one.

Then there's the right clothes, snacks, volunteering, fund-raisers, class parties, field trips, picture day, show-and-tell, a never-ending parade of viruses that marched through our family, all of this was new territory for our family.


A warm May day we were playing in our cul-de-sac and Danielle informed me she wanted to have her ears pierced.  The next day, we drove to a mall that had a Claire's Boutique.  After waiting an hour for the store to open we hurried in and Danielle announced that she wanted her ears pierced, but the girl was not yet trained to pierce ears.  (It's a minor medical procedure these days, complete with paperwork, et al.) Danielle cried as we called some friends whose daughter recently had her ears pierced.  They told us that the mall in Tanasbourne, with the Macy's in it, had a Claire's.  We heard Tanasbourne mall and Macy's.  The Macy's employees looked bemused as we asked where we could get her ears pierced.  We called again, and this time we collected the "Claire's" part of the directions.  We headed over, and Danielle chose blue flowers. Click, click, it was done.  She was very proud and so were we.

Danielle was ready for summer when June arrived.


In June we were notified that Tucker achieved legendary status. We have always held him as legendary, but now it was official. He was included in the book, Legendary Locals of the Long Beach Penninsula, by Sydney Stevens. His picture is one of him on his Day Sailor on Shoalwater Bay, with Danielle by his side. It was a wonderful moment. Because she was also pictured and named, she was invited to attend the exclusive book presentation and signing at the Columbia Pacific Heritage Museum. She spent the afternoon shaking hands and signing books with the other legends present that day, and when she got tired she recharged by taking a snuggle break on her Oma's lap.  It is a wonderful book and makes an excellent gift for anyone interested in the Long Beach Peninsula.  I might be able to score you an autographed copy...

Just two legends swapping autographs...

In late June, Danielle started her week at Farm Camp. Danielle and her friend Madi spent each day for a week out in Patton Valley helping around a working farm, grooming animals, and riding horses.

The highlight of her summer was her visit to Tante Lina's—she loves it there. Tante Lina introduced her to beading, and in the three hours Dave, Charley and I were gone fishing, she produced a half dozen necklaces and a few bracelets as well. She also got to ride horses, help in the garden, and play in the river near their house. She also soaked up all the attention her Tante Lina lavishes on her.

Gin and Danielle
Also memorable for Danielle was our visits to Oysterville, particularly because of the presence of two other little girls, her cousin Amelia and a new friend, Gin. Gin, short for Virginia, is the daughter of Abby, whom Charley played with as a youngster vacationing in Oysterville. Second generation Oysterville playmates—so cool. [I have been informed that Danielle and Gin are fourth! generation playmates.  Oysterville is a wonderful place to have such deep roots.]  Danielle was so moved by the experience of having a new Oysterville friend, she used some of her Christmas money to buy a stick horse to give to Gin to next time we meet there.  Gin and Oysterville has become synonymous; when we tell Danielle about an upcoming trip, she asks if Gin will also be there.



Amelia and Danielle
The grand event of Danielle's summer is always her birthday party. She turned six this past July and as usual we had a water party for her in our backyard. The day was warm and we had hoses crisscrossing the yard, charging the plumbing to the play structure that mists the slide (a custom job by Charley), one filling a kiddie pool, another running a slip-n-slide, yet another filling a bucket and water balloons. The water balloon battle raged, and eventually degraded to buckets and hoses, and all the guest left several hours later wet, loaded with sugar, and happy. No one as much as the birthday girl.

First Grade
Summer ended too quickly and first grade loomed. Her anxiety grew and grew, until finally when someone would ask her if she was excited about going in to the first grade she would simply run away from them. It came time for school clothes shopping, (she loves shopping!) and she wanted nothing to do with it. She was terrified. When it was a couple weeks away, she broke down, laid on the floor in tears, saying that she didn't want to go, she hates school, school is stupid... Then she'd beg me to home-school her, to which I answered, “No.”  I can hardly get her to pick up her dirty socks, let alone sit and focus on math for an hour. She'd break me in a week. Judge me as you will.

During her yearly checkup, I discussed her anxiety issues with her doctor as I believed that her school fear is a symptom of her natural tendency to be anxious. He suggested we try therapy for anxiety, with the hopes of giving her some tools for working through these situations that were so scary for her. The therapy was only so-so successful; it's difficult for a doctor to effectively know a person in forty-five minutes, once a week. The best advice, as usual, came from friends; I called the school and brought her in to meet her teacher. It was very informal, but after seeing the familiar hallways, her young, pretty teacher who was very nice to her, she visibly relaxed. I was also able to talk to her teacher briefly about Danielle's anxiety and I think that helped prime her to be a little extra gentle with Danielle. It was also nice for Danielle to hear from Sydney Stevens, a former grammar school teacher herself, that teachers are also a little nervous on the first day. Happily, things have been OK for her this year. Although, she is already looking forward to summer.


Thanksgiving brought her cousins Amelia, Sam, Christian and Tiberius.  Danielle and Amelia attached themselves at the hip and very little was seen or heard from them during the festivities.  Except after dinner, "Mama, can I have more of Oma's chocolate cream pie?!?"

And from Amelia, "Me too!"

And from me, "Yes, and I don't mind if I do too."


Christmas came and her excitement grew along with her Christmas list.  At the top of the list was a Baby Butterscotch Furr Real Pony.  She wrote her list to Santa, and wrote another one for Gabi, and we mailed them off.  To our surprise, Santa wrote back two lovely typewritten letters, signed by Santa along with a candy cane.  The thrill was palpable.  Christmas morning came and Danielle went for the biggest package first, naturally, and grinned when her very own Baby Butterscotch was revealed.  They were inseparable for the rest of the day.

Over the last year her passion for horses has grown, as evidenced by her growing collection of horse toys, horse clothes, frequency of their appearance in her artwork, clay sculptures, and homemade books. She also loves playing board games like Horseopoloy, Horse Show, Herd your Horses, and Forbidden Island. She is very proud of her new reading skills, and reads nearly everyday—usually about horses. She is currently working her way through an unabridged version of Black Beauty.  It is common for Gabi to bring her a book, “Will you read this book to me sis-ter?”

Usually, “Sure, come sit by me,” is the reply.

Music to my ears.


Danielle's message to you: "I love horses. I can't wait to go to Oysterville," and "Hi!"

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