A kindergartener and a five-month-old

Alina accomplished a lot during her fifth month. She has become even more talkative and particularly enjoys squealing like a dolphin.  She started rolling back-to-belly, attempting to sit up, pivoting, putting everything in her mouth, and tripod sitting.  As soon as she started rolling back-to-belly, she threw Back to Sleep out the window, much like her mother and brother.  And not long after she started adeptly grabbing my fork at the dinner table, I let her start sucking and chewing on cucumbers, peaches, plums, puffs, sausages, pieces of paper… ahem. Well, I did try to divert her love for literature towards cloth books and board books instead of less robust library books. That’s more than her father can say.

Since turning five months old, Alina survived her first viral fever. (The pediatrician tentatively diagnosed it as hand-foot-mouth, but I doubt that that was the culprit because neither Peter nor I showed any of the hallmark signs of hand-foot-mouth when we caught the disease from Alina.) A couple days after that, she started sitting unassisted (no hands); a couple days after that, Alina had her last day of day care with Marie (who had decided to retire to Pennsylvania to live with her boyfriend), and a couple days after that, Alina cut her first two teeth.  Understandably, she did not eat or sleep well during this period of many transitions.  But after a few days of day care with Kathie, Alina started eating and sleeping better.  She is quite pleased that she is now able to sit independently and grab toys to chew on, and she has also figured out how to get onto her hands and knees, but I’m not ready to call her a crawler yet.  She’s very close, though, and I’m sure she will be very satisfied with herself when she finally gets to move around and decide for herself what she wants to play with and put in her mouth.  (Watch out, books and magazines!)

Son and I were somewhat productive during Peter’s absence.  Actually, it was mostly Son who was the productive one; I just held Alina, produced milk for Alina, and chauffeured Alina. Son, on the other hand, had the initiative to seal our driveway and build a patio. But I suppose that I can take credit for the mortgage refinancing.

Peter came home August 11th.  He had a lot of fun in Minnesota, but it was obvious that he was happy to be home. Or in Peter’s words, “I’ve had enough friends.” (When prodded, Peter specified that Gram and Grandpa fall into the “friends” category.)  My parents were likewise eager to get home after 9 days of camping on the North Shore and barely two days at home before it was time to return Peter to Massachusetts.  I, on the other hand, was eager to spend more time with my parents and persuaded them to stay until Friday morning when I pointed out that I had requested Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday as vacation days from work.  I ended up working Friday (to the surprise of my coworkers), my parents couldn’t catch a flight back to Minnesota until late on Friday (to their chagrin), and I needed to take sick leave on Monday and Wednesday the following week (c’est la vie).

But we did have a good time during their two-day visit.  (I guess I can’t speak for my parents, but I certainly had a lovely time.)  Alina’s baptism was held during the Wednesday morning mass.  I have no photos, but it was short and sweet.  Peter was antsy, but Alina enjoyed the mass as she always does.  Peter received a white bib as his baptismal garment, but Alina received a lovely crocheted lovey blanket with a cross  pattern.  After the baptism, we went refrigerator shopping. Our freezer defrosted the night before Peter came home, and the refrigerator warmed to room temperature shortly after that.  We had to be a bit creative with our recipes and food/breast milk storage techniques over the following week and a half until our new refrigerator arrived, but the end result – a cabinet-depth refrigerator which makes our kitchen look less cramped – was quite satisfying to achieve. Until we noticed that the doors were not hung in parallel to each other. We tried to have the refrigerator adjusted to compensate for this cosmetic flaw, and we tried exchanging the refrigerator for a better-aligned one, but it turns out that this is just a manufacturing flaw with the model we chose. Oh, well.

After refrigerator shopping, we had a lunch of Peking duck, spent time at the playground/liquor store and library/antique mall (according to the interests of each family member), had a mini photo shoot at the Old Stone Church, and got some salmon for dinner. Son returned to work on Wednesday, but I took my parents and the kids hiking rock climbing at Purgatory Chasm. (Peter seems averse to “hiking” since his return from Minnesota, but he agrees to come along as long as we call the activity, “rock climbing.”) After a picnic lunch and some time at the playground, we went blueberry picking at a family apple/grape/blueberry/blackberry farm. It was the end of the blueberry picking season, but my dad still managed to pick close to two gallons of blueberries. (Meanwhile Peter, to his credit, did a good job eating the berries.)

The fun continued on Saturday after my parents made it back to Minnesota. We went to the Bolton Fair, which turned out to be probably the most family-friendly fair I’ve been to (in Massachusetts, at least). Between the firefighters’ area, the percussion instruments booth, the animals, the arts and crafts tent, the giant sand pile, the rubber duck races, and the magician/musician/monster truck performances, there was plenty to keep young children busy.  (Peter is such a funny kid, though. He refused to watch the monster truck show because it was “too noisy,” but he LOVED learning about spinning yarn from elderly women in the spinning and weaving tent.)

Son had lunch with his postdoctoral research advisor in Boston on Sunday, so I took the kids to the Boston Children’s Museum while Son networked. Unfortunately, later that day was when Alina’s viral illness struck. The one good thing was that her fever was short-lived. It was gone Monday morning and did not return.  I was back at work on Tuesday, but Peter awoke with a fever that day, and I succumbed to the chills and spiked a temperature that evening. We all stayed home on Wednesday but were able to return to work and school on Thursday.

To get Peter ready for kindergarten, I took him school supply shopping at Target 11 days before his first day of school. He seemed to enjoy the “mommy and me” time since Alina tends to monopolize my attention (or at least my hands) these days. We used a birthday gift card that Peter had received from his great grandmother, so I let him splurge on an awesome Transformers backpack, Lightning McQueen lunch box, Transformers socks, a Transformers sticker book, a Planes Fire and Rescue book, and a United States geography workbook. Peter’s interest in geography persists. The next week, Kathie posted on facebook,’

While the children were painting some amazing sunflowers this morning, the conversation took an educating turn. A 5 year old states: “Australia is a country as well as a continent. Nauru is a tiny dot and has no capital.” I’ve never heard of Nauru, so when we were done painting … off to the computer we went. I love the education I receive!

Yup. That’s Peter for you. Still not sure where he learned about Nauru, but precocious readers do have a distinct advantage when it comes to picking up trivia like this. Kathie sent Peter him with map print outs of Nauru and facts about Nauru that she had looked up online. He was, of course, very fond of the maps. Kathie keeps telling me that she can’t wait to hear about the teachers’ reactions to Peter in kindergarten… and asking in meaningful way, “so how much does Peter’s teacher know about him?” We’ll see how the parent-teacher conferences go later this year; to me, Peter is just a “typical” precocious reader… right? I think I gave adequate warning: I let Mrs. Bianco know that Peter’s fine motor skills are weak and that he has been reading for about two years already.

I was generally in a happy, nostalgic mood when I put Peter on the school bus for the first time Wednesday morning. The school bus – and even the Transformers backpack – seemed decidedly too big for him, but I know he’ll grow into his new identity as a schoolboy soon. Mrs. Bianco reassured me that Peter had a great first day of school, but given that the day included a trip to the nurse’s office (presumably because Peter was looking tired, having stayed up too later the night before), getting on the wrong bus after school (despite the notes in his backpack, on the back of his nametag, and on the zipper of his back pack indicating that he should take bus 3 to day care), and a firm, “I’ve had enough kindergarten,” at bedtime Wednesday evening, I think it was a tiring and slightly stressful day for poor Peter.

Nonetheless, I was able to convince Peter to get back on the bus Thursday and Friday morning, and when he started bringing home work from school, I felt reassured that Peter was doing good things at school and having a good time.

As for me, my work is picking up. I was assigned to a new bear of a study two weeks ago… a large Alzheimer’s study with clinical sites spanning 5 continents (sorry, Africa). The list of required laboratory tests is long and complex, and many of the sites have trouble following our directions, creating a lot of challenged and some headaches. It is a good learning experience, though, and I’m sure I will also learn a lot from the study I was just assigned to this week. The latter study is just beginning the start-up phase, so I am excited to learn more about what goes into study start up (and to help avoid the headaches of my Alzheimer’s study).

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