Monday, September 26, 2011

Sugar and Spice and Rogaine

For once we have come up trumps when it comes to educational opportunities in this town. Just this once we've managed to be in the right place at the right time. We drive past at least three schools to go to Anna's current elementary school. Something that's not lost on me during my 90 minutes every day that I spend driving between our home, preschool, school and office. We drive that far because our local school is a 'failing school' and if it's failing in California you'd better believe it's no bueno.

But! Her granola, happy-clappy, love-in of an elementary school is in the neighbouring town's pick up zone when it comes to after school care - which means Girls Inc will pick her up from school and take her to their brand new state of the art facility, that *could we be so lucky* is just down the road from Lucy's preschool.

I had no idea what Girls Inc was, except probably female in orientation. I was thinking Monsters Inc - only pink. It is an 'enrichment' program, somewhere kids go after school when their parents are still chasing the almighty dollar. Her program includes a theatre, a gym, a garden, a computer room, a professional teaching kitchen, a ballet studio, a tap studio, really - somebody stop me. They feed them snack (kid approved - Anna had a blueberry Joker smile when I picked her up after her first day), let them loose in either the playground or the library (when Anna saw this brand new library you could literally see her heart stop beating....), and then they pick a class - a different class every afternoon. So far Anna is going twice a week and is doing 'Sea Science' and 'Tap'.

She loves her Sea Science teacher. On the first day they learned about ecosystems and her teacher cornered me at pick-up to say "she's quite an adept learner isn't she" and I just smiled, knowing full well I had an evening of regurgitated tundra ahead of me.

Last week they were to take a field trip to the beach. Every child who was going on the trip had to have a Girls Inc T-shirt. Anna was admiring hers in the car on the way home. The Girls Inc motto is emblazoned on the back...

"Girls Inc" read Anna "Inspiring Girls to Be Strong, Smart and Bald"
"Don't you mean, BOLD - as in confident" I said to the rearview mirror
"Nope, I'm pretty sure it means hairless" was the reply.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Potty Training By Costco

Potty training Lucy was always going to be interesting, mostly because she is just so. damn. stubborn. It was obvious right from the start that 'training' was out the window, that it would have to be her idea. For weeks she would hide behind the couch, red faced, and teary eyed, doing her business. We would gently ask if she wouldn't rather put that poop in the toilet "NO I NOT!", "DON'T SEE ME", "I NEED SOME SPACE" would be her favourite screams.

We hit mid-summer, and she passed the two and half year mark. I placed that last pack of 256 diapers in my Costco trolley - and then hit on a genius idea. In full view of the girls, I grabbed a giant pack of Otter Pop popsicles. 

Game on.

Lucy was stubbornly going at her own pace when it came to potty training, but bribery can work wonders, especially when an older sister is thrown in to the mix. We had a deal - for every time Lucy used the toilet they could BOTH have a popsicle. Even in this bizarrely grey and foggy faux-summer, a popsicle made for some pretty hard currency.

Yes, it did mean that on many a morning they had popsicles for breakfast - and no, when only the green ones were left it did not mean they could 'trade up' for an ice-cream. I'll tell you what though, it worked like a charm. In the space of one week we went from nappies to knickers. No accidents. We may have flirted with early onset juvenile diabetes with a 6 popsicle a day diet - but amazingly while she kept using the toilet, the requests for popsicles dwindled. I think she was just so chuffed with herself for being a big girl, and so happy to be wearing new knickers courtesy of her Nani.

It's not easy taking a fledgling knicker-wearer out in public. Most overused phrase of August was definitely 'do you need to go potty', at five minute intervals. We had a close call the other night when she cried out 'I need to go pee-pee' at about 3am. I raced her to the toilet, only to realize she'd been sleep-talking, something that became apparent when she quickly woke up as her naked arse hit the cold toilet seat. I put an emergency nappy on her and took her back to bed - it was dry in the morning so it must have been a false alarm - much like when she yelled "I need some scissors" in the early hours of Tuesday morning.

Of course, there is an exception to every rule. Just as I was patting myself on the back knowing that we were now a diaper-less family, I found her Achilles heel. She may be stubborn, she may have mastered bladder control in the space of a few days - but she is no match for the wet foot reflex. Twice this past weekend we were at the beach, and there she was splashing her feet in the cold ocean, when bingo - the flood gates opened. Fortunately it's the beach that's getting a good fertilizing and not my couch, and no-one except immediate family noticed the awkward open-legged gait and wet stream coursing down her shorts.

I will just have to remember not to swim too close to her when we first get in the pool.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Hello, My Name Is....

Not really a reference to the fact that I've been away from the blog for a month, more a hint as to why.

I could claim some tenuous french heritage and say that the month of August was just a holiday (my Nanna was born in France after all), but really, do the French still take a month off in the summer? Is that a bit like Americans assuming I stop everything to have a cup of tea and a crustless sandwich at 4pm? Chance would be a fine thing.

No, in actuality the American summer holiday kicked my arse. It was ten long weeks of patching together childcare and balancing very welcome guests. Lucy was mostly in her preschool over the summer, but Anna was thrown to the wolves in what the Americans like to call 'summer camps'.

I have a personal theory that summer camps are a training ground for the American psyche. Each year the local papers comes out with the list of camps available in town for the summer (well over a hundred) and you pick and choose like ordering from a very eclectic menu. Anna could have done theatre, surf camp, Spanish camp, Mandarin camp, Mandolin camp (OK maybe that's a stretch), but of course she mostly did tennis and swimming because in our household that is free. These camps vary in cost and popularity - there is a definite pecking order and the good ones fill up fast. Savvy Moms organize their broods into the same camps as friends to help with pick-up and drop-off, and also to help with camp cold-turkey. This is what I think is a trial of fire in terms of character building. Every week a different camp, every week a different set of kids to meet, introduce yourself to, bond with. For a shy child it can be brutal. I am constantly amazed how Anna has changed from a timid and clingy two year old to a six year old prepared to march in to a room of strangers and just get on with things. I would still find that draining. Perhaps it crushes more delicate flowers, but it has definitely given Anna a teflon self-confidence that I hadn't seen coming.

She has some great camp stories; came back muddy and wet from 'Natural History Museum camp' where they searched for pollywogs (tadpoles) in the creek, studied hissing cockroaches and made dodgy scientific crafts that are now littering her bedroom floor.

The best quote was about tennis camp though. Anna, tired, streaky and pink with sunscreen and sunburn - eyes red with chlorine and hair matted with a dozen swimming pool dunks - sighed and said "Momma, I don't fall in love often - but when I do, it's only with very special boys. I've only fallen in love three times this whole summer!"

You can't teach that.