Posted by: Hallie Levine | July 16, 2013

Milestones

I haven’t blogged in a couple months. There’s been no real reason, other than the hectic transition of shifting kids from school routine to camp routine and finding ourselves spending afternoons splashing at the pool and running around the playground only to roll into bed just a little too late every night. But there have been big events going on in the Sklar household. Among the most memorable milestones:

Geoffrey turned two.

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On May 16th, to be exact. And while I’m mortified I’ve waited so long to blog about it, in my defense it was pretty much a standard two year old birthday bash, complete with the requisite music, pizza and cake.

The big hit of the party? Geoffrey’s very own big boy Bigwheel, which he rode all around the house, careening into furniture and the dog with obvious pride. Ivry was fine (she’s got a lot of doggie fat to buffer here) but at one point G took a tumble (notice the bruiser).

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Maybe because Geoffrey’s my third—and my last—I spend a lot of time marveling over his development. Somehow in the span of a few weeks he went from toddler to a two year old who speaks in full sentences (or somewhat full sentences), drinks from a big boy cup, and counts to ten. He loves Legos and riding Teddy’s old tricycle and taking off all his clothes and running around naked peeing all over the house like a drunken frat boy.

He started camp this summer, at the Gan, where Teddy also goes to school. The first week he was totally fine. Couldn’t have cared less when I left and screamed like a madman when I came to pick him up. The second week, it sunk into his little brain that this was a permanent gig. He shrieked and was inconsolable for hours, until I had to come get him. I could hear his wails echoing off the corridors, these plaintative “MaMa! Mama!”s  and I had to remind myself that he wasn’t being tortured but was instead being encouraged to play in a very pricy twos program.

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Finally my nanny suggested we get Night Night (his blankie) and the teachers jumped on the suggestion. A few minutes later, once Night Night was in his arms, he was totally fine. I watched him totter down the hallway, following the teacher, Night Night wrapped around his entire body like a little green cocoon, wondering if Night Night was going to accompany him to college in 16 years.

He’s going through his “No!” phase right now, but the thing is with Geoffrey, is that even when he’s defying you he’s just so damn cute. Teddy and Jo Jo used to scream “No!” and stamp their feet and holler. Geoffrey just looks at you, grins his mouth watering grin, and says “No” in his little lilting baby voice.  No shrieking, no temper tantrums, just a simple, straightforward “no.” Which makes it that much harder to refuse him.

I hear “No” a lot at night. He has a new bedtime routine that lasts for hours. After I read books to Teddy and Jo Jo, I have to read to him—his doggie book (Bedtime Peekabo), Where is Baby’s Belly Button, Goodnight Moon, and Llama Llama. Then he has to have his wa wa. Then it’s time for rock rock—in the big kid’s room. Then it’s on to rock rock in Geoffrey’s room. Then I have to sing “C is for Cookie” about a zillion trillion times, substituting in family names for Cookie Monster. All the while he’s squealing and giggling and smiling at me with his eyes all crinkled up so I don’t have the heart to put him in his crib. Finally I say, “bedtime Geoffie” and he sighs, shakes his head, and says, “No Mommy. Not yet” and lays his head against my chest.

And I know it’s getting late and he’s long overdue for bedtime but at the same time he’s just so snuggly and smells so delicious from his bath I tell myself it’s okay to rock him for a bit longer. And we stay like that, sometimes for five minutes, sometimes for a half hour, until he starts to fall asleep.

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Jo Jo graduated from preschool.

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I can’t wrap my head around the fact that my eldest is entering kindergarten, but in so many ways, despite her myriad delays, I can tell my little girl is growing up. She looks older, for one: her delicious round tummy and blonde pigtails have given way to long willowy legs and big girl French braids. But over the last couple months she’s gradually started to come into her own. She’s beginning to recognize a few letters. She recites the Hebrew alphabet. She rocks a Ralph Lauren bikini. And most importantly, she has a joie de vivre, an ability to sing and dance her way through anything in a way that’s so infectious you can’t help but join in. My girl knows how to walk in a room and command all the attention. As her physical therapist said to me, “Jo Jo’s life is a Broadway play, and she’s the star.”

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This year was another milestone of sorts: it’s Jo Jo’s first year at camp. We signed her up for the first two weeks and then for four weeks in the afternoon, after summer school. Even though she was going with one of her preschool aides, Ms. Rosie, I was still really nervous. I wasn’t sure how she’d react to camp. The days are long and hot and there’s a lot of walking and a lot of activities, all geared to typical peers. I wasn’t sure she’d be able to keep up. And I wasn’t sure how the other little girls were going to respond.

The first couple weeks were hard. Ms. Rosie mentioned to me a couple times that some of the little girls seemed to be really struggling to make sense of Jo Jo. They kept asking why she wouldn’t talk to them, or why she insisted on chewing on one of her therapy sticks or why she would suddenly impromptu stand up and start doing her own little Jo Jo dance during art class.

But gradually that seemed to change. Ms. Rosie reported that there were two or three little girls who wanted to eat lunch with Jo Jo or sit next to her in music. My friends mentioned to me that their daughters were coming home from camp talking about her, not wondering anymore why she had trouble keeping up with the group or needed help during activities but casually, as if she was one of the group. Like she belonged. And last Friday, when I went to pick her up, Ms. Rosie was beaming. “Jo Jo was the It girl today,” she told me and it turned out all the other girls had been clamoring for Jo Jo’s attention all day long.

I got teary eyed, not just because I know all this exposure to typical peers is great for Jo Jo, but because I know those girls will all benefit from befriending her, from learning how to celebrate her differences rather than to be fearful or mock them.

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That’s why inclusion’s really a two way street.

Teddy’s morphed into a little man.

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My eldest son has really come into his own this past year. We had a rocky start with preschool, but we moved him to a smaller school with a more child-centric curriculum and he flourished. Out of all my children, Teddy’s definitely the most angst ridden of the bunch. He’s not shy, per se, but definitely reserved: when he’s in a new situation he hangs back and sizes it up and it oftentimes takes him weeks before he jumps in. So I was surprised at how quickly he took to camp. My normally aqua-phobic little guy now isn’t afraid to dunk his head underwater or swim in the big pool or even pee standing up (something we’d been trying to get him to do for months.)

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Picking his nose at camp. Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

Most importantly, he has a girlfriend. Two, actually. One, Sarah, is his camp girlfriend, and one, Ana, is his pool club squeeze. They all go to camp together during the day, so I’m not sure how the dynamics of that work out, but the counselors haven’t informed me of any Jerry Springerish like moments, so I’m assuming it’s everyone going along to get along right now.

This past Friday, Sarah came over for a play date. Teddy was talking about if for days, and once he got home from camp he wanted to make sure there were plenty of snacks laid out for her and he insisted on dragging out all his favorite puzzles and games for her to enjoy. Sarah arrived a bit late, somewhat groggy and cranky from her nap, but soon revived thanks to all the veggie sticks and juice my son plied on her. They were soon engaged in a game of Sneaky Snacky Squirrel, and I was impressed at how tender Teddy was with her. “Take an acorn, Sarah,” he said helpfully, patting her on the shoulder and staring at her with love struck eyes.

That’s my son. The almost four year old eternal romantic.

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Here’s to the good times.

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