February 2018
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Man, I dread these things. No wonder my parents opted out as soon as they could. Talk about stressful.

We had Ava’s first conference of the school year today. As I’ve mentioned in a few earlier posts, we’ve had some recent behavioral challenges with her at school and for the first time in a long time I really, really wish I could just stay home with her for a while. Not that I’m justifying or rationalizing her behaviors, but dang. She’s 4. Why are the expectations so high nowadays??

For example, she got in trouble today for taking a piece of candy from the treat jar. The treat jar that was left, unsupervised and at kid level, by another teacher who failed to put it back up out of the kids’ reach. I get it that Ava knew she wasn’t supposed to be in it and she admitted that, but geez. Again, she’s 4. The temptation to grab a sweet is pretty hard for me to resist so I can imagine how hard it would be for her. For that she got a semi-public (mainly because there isn’t a lot of room for privacy in their classroom) mini-lecture about stealing. I did address the issue of labeling a (my) child publicly but I think I need to reiterate that again with her teacher in the morning.

Her main teacher really is mostly okay. She’s pretty straightforward, yet understanding so I don’t really have any complaints with her. The few concerns that I have had we’ve discussed, resolved to our mutual satisfaction and I’m good with that. She is very good with the kids, has a ton of patience, and seems to understand the value of positive reinforcement – which is something that we’ve discussed at length both in the past and again today.

Ava is also very stubborn and strong-willed. I know this. Really, I know this. Fortunately for me, I have a stronger will and I win because I am the mom. Her teachers however, cave in just often enough to reinforce Ava’s behavior which only makes it harder for them (and for me) next time.

Also, speech. I think Ava is doing fine from my perspective. I’m surely biased but I see frequent changes for the positive in her pronunciation of words all the time. Is she 100% clear to all people all the time? I doubt it because sometimes there’s a word here and there that I don’t get either but she can mostly communicate with neighbors and strangers fine so I don’t think it’s a huge issue that she can’t really pronounce /sp/ all that well at this point. S is fine if it’s alone but it’s the combo that she can’t quite get yet. Am I wrong here, y’all?

And they pointed out that she doesn’t yet know her phone number or address yet. Again, she’s FOUR. What she does know is how to turn on my iPhone, enter the unlock code (that she’s memorized – which reminds me that I need to change it again to keep her out of it), get to the favorites screen, and know which words to hit that will call Dad’s cell phone (which she did a couple of weeks ago while J was several time zones away from us – waking him VERY early in the AM hours).

And word cognition. Apparently she’s not so great at determining which words begin with a particular sound. Some she can get, some she can’t. I just can’t help but think that my mom probably wasn’t worried about this particular skill at all when I was 4. And hey, look. I grew up and can read and write. I even have my own blog where I can massacre the english language and all related grammar rules at will. The thing is – she knows this stuff and will answer your questions IF she feels like it or is forced into it by someone like, say, me. For example, I asked her to give me a word that starts with A. She did. Ava. I’m good with that. I asked for a B. After much hemming and hawing and whining and dragging of feet (and a few minutes of a stand off in the car where I told her we would sit until she gave me a B word) she did. Burp. And then illustrated with one.

She is her father’s daughter, after all.

It wasn’t all negative. She’s meeting or positively progressing in all of the developmental and educational milestones they track. At least there’s that.

It just felt to me like an awful lot of it was about what she’s not doing and I am scared to death that’s what’s coming across to her at school.

I sure hope not.

Edited to Add: I quizzed Ava all the way to school today about her address and she does know it quite well. Turns out Ava’s answer to the question, “Where do you live?” when asked by her teacher was “Home.” Well, duh. She answered the question accurately then, IMO. I plan to point out to her teacher that the question might be better phrased next time.

We (I) had our first parent-teacher conference today.

I learned:

Ava has the attention span of a gnat. For the record, this is not news to me.

Her teacher thought she would be the quiet type. Not so much. Ava has a big personality and once she gets over a little bit of bashful she’s not afraid to show it.

She (thankfully) appears to have taken herself out of the running for winning the Ultimate Fighting Championship title she was vying for earlier this year.

She wants to do what she wants to do when she wants to do it. Also not news to me.

She is not a social butterfly. She is okay with playing with others but doesn’t necessarily seek them out all the time. Her teacher feels this is a combination of her personality and the fact that she’s an only child who doesn’t have a full time playmate at home. She doesn’t see this as a problem at all, nor do I. I think that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, personally. I’m an introvert and definitely see some of the same tendencies in Ava – not sure if this is primarily nature or nurture or the perfect storm combo of both.

She is obstinate. Case in point: when they ‘tested’ her on ABC’s, number recognition, and whether or not she knew her full name she refused to participate. We know she knows them, her teacher knows she knows them, but Ava would not cooperate so she got N’s on her ‘report card.’

She is pretty much doing just fine. Her teacher has noticed no significant areas for concern and eased my mind on some questions I had. We also had a very frank discussion about adoption and how this should be addressed when/if questions arise.

Know what else I learned?

I am more nervous about parent-teacher conferences now that I’m on the parent side of things.

And I am way too old and my tush is way too big to sit in those itty bitty chairs for more than 4.2 seconds.

The theme for this week at preschool is Harvest Time. This meant that the parents had a homework assignment to send an item that was harvested to school. They even kindly provided us with a list of examples just in case we were unable to figure it out on our own. Beans, pumpkins, corn, potatoes, etc. and so on.

Now if I were a really great mom then I would have sent one of my home-grown, organic vegetables nourished with compost from our own backyard but, ummmm, no. Since I’m not exactly the earth mother type and my MO is normally to turn every assignment in a day late then Ava and I made a big box grocery store run before I dropped her off.

I offered her a few suggestions and she opted for beans – so off we went to the produce section to find some beans. Or not. There were no beans to be found. I suggested beets, turnips, apples, oranges, pineapples and tomatoes but, ummmm, no again. She wanted beans. Inspiration struck and we headed off to the dried bean section where she happily picked out a ginormous bag of pinto beans.

I felt a little weird about this since I knew it wasn’t exactly what they were going for but, hey, Ava picked them out and they technically were harvested – besides, beans are fun to play with so I knew the kids would dig that. But still, I figured I needed to explain the process by which Ava came to her decision to the teacher so I didn’t look like a sad, pathetic mama who pulled something out of the cabinet at the last minute.

I needn’t have worried.

A small thanks to the parent who sent the can of Bush’s baked beans with their kid. You win this round.

A little mini one is lurking in Ava’s daycare.

One that munched on my kid while she was lying defenseless on her cot, deep in sleep. And the little beast bit hard, too. Through an undershirt and a fleece, it still left deep teeth marks that very nearly broke the skin and left a perfect, bruised outline on her left shoulder blade. It hurt her, too. She was favoring that side and had a hard time sitting or laying comfortably.

And no one knew who did it. There were two suspects, both new transplants into the 2 year old room, but no one actually saw the bite happen and Ava, as a reputable witness, is pretty unreliable (if she even knew anyway). For example, when J asked her who bit her she said, “Mama did it.” When I asked her who bit her she told me, “Emma did it.” Since I was still on lockdown and unable to drive and Emma is our dog who won’t go within 10 feet of Ava at the best of times and certainly didn’t head on out for a 16 mile round trip to sneak in and bite her I’m pretty sure that Ava’s testimony wouldn’t hold water in judicial proceedings of any type.

Since I wasn’t there, J channeled me and raised holy hell with them as to why the opportunity even happened since they were all supposed to be napping on their individual cots. And demanded to know why, if these two kids are known biters, they weren’t being supervised a little more closely during this naturally tumultuous transition stage. Ava was not the first, or even the second, child to be bitten in as many days.

Bottom line: An extra staff member was added to the room for assistance until things settle down and I’m so proud of J for pulling a me until an acceptable resolution was reached because I know, I know, that J was way nicer and more diplomatic than I would have been. My mama bear instincts were raging and all I wanted to do was hunt the little bloodsucker down with a stake at that point.

I guess we should count ourselves lucky that in nearly 2 years of daycare this is our first (and hopefully only) biting incident.

One thing Ava’s daycare does in spades are art projects. She brings home something almost daily, waving it proudly at us as we arrive to pick her up, before abandoning it in favor of the juice she knows we always have ready for the ride home.

So what’s a parent to do with all of this fine craftsmanship? Well, if you’re J then you let it pile up in your truck for a while and then toss it all into the recycle bin without a second thought once it threatens to take over the backseat. If you’re me then you obsessively hoard every single scribble, collage, or piece of glued on macaroni that Ava has (supposedly) created and justify this behavior by the fact that I was traumatized by only having one, yes only one, piece of my childhood artwork saved. My mom gave it to me when she was unloading her basement of all my crap (still haven’t brought those roller skates home yet) and injured me further by asking me why I had so many ‘m’s scribbled all over the sky. *Sigh.* Those were birds. Obviously my interpretation wasn’t clear which could explain that my mother foresaw that I would not be an ‘artiste’ and therefore didn’t bother to preserve my early efforts for posterity.

My dilemma now is what to do with all of this? I have plans. I really do – some involve scrapbooking, some involve scanning and importing into a photobook, and some involve ignoring them and continuing to pile them in the basket beside my desk…which is now overflowing. Clearly the third option is the one most likely to happen.

Ava spotted the basket, which wasn’t hard to do since it spilled over onto the floor and into her play area, and she was delighted to find a hat that she’d made a couple of months ago for Thanksgiving week. I suspect that she had a fair bit of assistance with this one since the feathers were pointing (sorta) in the right direction and they weren’t glued directly to her head.

At least this was one item that I could toss into the recycle bin with no regret since she wore it for ages and pretty much trashed it in the process.

One down, lots and lots and lots more to go…