Welcome, fall!

We have been blessed with gorgeous fall thus far, and Columbus Day – a non-PAREXEL holiday which I was forced to take off due to Peter’s school and Alina’s day care both being closed – was spectacular: warm and sunny with flaming fall foliage. I took the kids to the Fall Festival at West End Creamery, and Peter had a blast climbing a tractor tire tower, racing rubber ducks, riding a cow train, swimming and digging in a corn crib, climbing a giant spider web, jumping on a giant inflated bounce pillow, weaving our way through a giant corn maze, learning to ride a tricycle, and making an admirable effort in tether ball and tug of war. Unfortunately, the large crowd of people meant that we didn’t have the time/patience to purchase the creamery’s ice cream, much to Peter’s chagrin. And we tried to catch a hayride before he had to leave for Peter’s physical… but just after we sat down, a staff member announced that rides would be on hold for 20 minutes due to a medical emergency. It’s hard to complain of bad luck, though, when the weather was that good.

At Peter’s physical, we confirmed that he (still) weighs 35 lbs and that despite his father’s worries, Peter’s BMI is perfectly normal at 45 percentile. He’s right on track to reach an adult height of… ahem… 5′ 5″, like his father. I was relieved that Peter had learned to pedal a tricycle just before we went to the appointment because that was a prominent question on the developmental questionnaire.

Peter has earned his share of bragging rights in other areas as well. He started kindergarten holding his scissors backwards and holding his pencil with a clumsy fist grip. Within the past couple weeks, though, his pencil grip has been perfected as far as my untrained eye can see. Moreover, the boy who cried in frustration and refused to write his name on valentines for his friends last February is now happily writing the titles of books (which he may or may not have actually read) on his reading log and writing the names of objects he drew on class worksheets (with some degree of spelling awareness). And the the literacy milestone which I had been predicting for awhile was reached last week: Peter started reading chapter books. (More precisely, he started reading Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot books. I’m unsure whether I’ll be able to find many other chapter books that are at his reading and interest level. He lets me read Junie B. Jones books to him, but they seem to be a bit above his interest level.) Overall, I’m very happy with the progress Peter is making in kindergarten. I worried about him being too young or too advanced in reading, but overall, kindergarten seems like a good fit for him this year. He does manage to wow his teacher occasionally, e.g., when he is asked to draw two things that start with the letter, o, and proceeds to draw Ohio and Oklahoma. And then mark ‘O’ in the center of Oklahoma for Oklahoma City and ‘C’ in the middle of Ohio for Columbus. At the end of the day, though, he is enjoying school and growing in several areas, and we are both happy about this.

Meanwhile, Miss Alina just hit 7 months, weighs 16 lbs, and thinks that she is about 2 years old. When we wound our way through the corn maze, Alina insisted on being the one to carry the map. When she sees other people eating, she demands a share of the tasty goodness. When we go to the library, Alina crawls through the room and attempts to pull books from the shelves. She loves to stand holding my hands and “dance” with me the way Peter did when he was 11 months old. She will play on the floor by herself for awhile, but then she will spot a tall person, crawl over to him or her, grab onto garments to pull herself to standing, and indicate through chirps and tugs that she should be carried. In sum, there’s no stopping this girl!

If I may say so, I think Alina has left her awkward 1- and 2-month-old days behind and blossomed into a very pretty baby. Son is obviously smitten by Alina and tells her instinctively every day how beautiful she is. I completely understand where the words are coming from, but I couldn’t help pointing out that by his own assessment, his wife is “cute” but his infant daughter is “beautiful.” Seems like an unfair allocation of adjectives to me. Regardless, it’s clear that Alina’s smile is infectious, and she has become quite popular with the older kids at day care. As for Alina, she clearly adores her older brother, and nothing warms my heart like watching the two of them laugh together. In fact, after 1.5 months of Alina screaming bloody murder every time I tried to bathe her, I finally discovered the trick to getting her to enjoy baths again: brother Peter. All three of us hop in the tub together, Peter makes Alina laugh with his bathtime antics, and I wash Alina. Once she is clean, I hand her over to Son to be dried and clothed. (Yes, it takes 3 people to bathe a 16-pound baby.)

It is interesting to note the ways in which Alina and Peter are similar and different. Alina has way more and longer hair than her brother did as an infant. Son wants to cut her hair, but I refuse because I want it to grow long enough to put into pigtails. Both Peter and Alina were/are very smiley, flirtatious babies. Both love finger foods but couldn’t care less about purees and infant cereal. On the other hand, Alina’s fine motor skills are more precise than Peter’s were as a baby; no one’s going to accuse that girl of having a “preemie grasp.” Alina drinks significantly less than Peter did, making pumping an easier endeavor to keep up. (Bonus: Alina still nurses at night!) Alina generally seems more driven and less laid back than Peter. My memory of Peter’s baby babbles is limited, but I do think that Alina is more “talkative” and more intentional with her vocalizations. Before Alina was born, I asked Peter what babies say. “Ah,” he replied. I thought this was cute but somewhat off-base at the time. At this point, however, it is a very good approximation of Alina’s “Hey, look at me!” vocalization.

I’m not mentally ready for winter yet, so we’ve been trying to squeeze as much fun into our fall weekends as possible. In September, we went “rock climbing” at Mt. Wachusett, visited Vietnamese friends in Andover, enjoyed the Sterling Fair, and went pumpkin picking at Breezy Gardens. Last weekend, we went apple picking at Tougas Farm and had a blast at a backyard birthday party of Peter’s classmate. Peter has another birthday party and playdate scheduled for this weekend. I hope we get a couple more nice weekends before winter sets in.

Peter says that he’s excited for Halloween, but I’m not exactly sure why; he still hates all things ghoulish or frightening. If we’re lucky, he may have outgrown has fear of jack-o-lanterns this year and be able to trick-or-treat after dusk. I suspect most of Peter’s excitement about Halloween was picked up from his classmates. Although Peter is a relatively quiet kid, he seems to be well-known and well-liked by his classmates. This makes me happy because it appears that Peter is getting out of kindergarten everything that I had hoped he would get: opportunities to read books independently, develop his writing skills, learn to follow directions, and make friends with his classmates. And as I watch Peter make new friends, I start to think that I, too, may be able to make some new friends again.

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