Monday, September 03, 2007

Summer Reflections

This past weekend was our last "beach" weekend for the season. Tomorrow is the first day of school. Skylar will start second grade, and my baby, Fiona, starts kindergarten. They are overjoyed tonight, antsy, anxious, nervous, excited, giddy and curious to know who will be in their classes that we haven't already figured out. But tonight brings a bittersweet feeling for me. I'm excited for both of them and the wonder of what this school year will bring. But I'm feeling a little sad, and a little sentimental. After all, my babies aren't babies anymore.

There are several things I've noticed this summer, so I think I should post them here for good measure and long memory.

Skylar Kelsey, age 6 and three quarters...
Skylar is still my sweet baby. Her eyes can sear right through me. Her smile -- although now a mish mash of baby and grown up teeth, some fully showing, others just making their way through -- lights up a room. Her giggle is infectious. Like her mother, she's a sensitive girl, very attuned to how we're feeling, and she's my best snuggle bunny. This summer more than ever I've noticed she shows affection often and oddly. She shows her emotions in a physical way. A poke in the side, a gentle whack on the arm, a little shake of the arm, a driveby smack on the rear. In making new friends, she's much more passive, tending to be more the follower than the leader.

Skylar is incredibly smart, but she has a very short attention span. As she gets older, it becomes more obvious that she needs both a lot of one on one attention, but also a lot of help staying focused and motivated. She does not like to sit down and do anything -- summer workbooks, practice math, telling time exercises, counting money. She sporadically reads books. She's a whirling dirvish. Yet, somehow, she is incredibly observant...she misses nothing -- be it a verbal uttering or a visual cue -- she's right there to notice. She's cautious, and tends to worry about a lot. She wants to help with everything.

As a budding gymnast and thanks to two weeks of gymnastics camp, she spends the majority of her time on her head, doing flips, cartwheels, splits, kickovers, backwards bridges and handstands. And by God, I think the girl has bigger, more toned muscles than I do -- all over her body.

Skylar is becoming a young lady. She'll be 7 in December, and she's definitely easing into the age -- but more like I eased into braces with rubberbands and headgear. She rolls her eyes at us. She's trying desperately to make her own way, make her own decisions and assert her will more than ever. Her hearing is becoming more and more selective. And she now stands with her arms folded across her chest, as if to say, "I'm so over the both of you." Her latest buzz phrase is "I don't always have to do what you say." She's desperate to get her ears pierced. She begs for high heeled shoes. She's totally over wearing cute little girl outfits. She's totally into pre-teen privacy. Check out the sign she has made for her bedroom door.

Fiona Ireland, age 4 and eleven twelfths...
Fiona is my cheeky baby. She speaks with facial expressions. Her eyes reveal a very deep and pensive girl. Her sweet lips guard a cherubic smile and often curl into a feigned scowl, just for effect. Her laugh is from the gut, bold and deep, quick and eternal. Her sense of humor is quick, sharp and yes, a bit sarcastic. She loves to tease anyone. She is extremely well-mannered, with a "please" and "thank you" on the tip of her tongue at all times. Her personality is magnetic, and it seems everyone wants to be around her. She quickly makes friends. She wears her emotions on her sleeve, quick to lash out when she's unhappy, but incredibly warm and caring...quick to offer a hug, pat you on the back or just hold your hand if she senses you're sad. She's incredibly curious. She asks questions about everything. She notices a lot. She draws her own conclusions, and offers her own thoughts on things she sees. Just as any budding kindergartener does, she's drawing distinctions, making connections and trying desperately to determine why things are the way they are. She's a definite leader -- quick to take over a playground, for example, the minute she sets foot on it. Everyone follows her around, yet, ironically, she rarely looks behind to see who's there. She's confident, secure and sure of who she is...and she perfectly content to be her own person on her own terms.

Fiona is I guess what you call seriously smart. Her vocabulary is sophisticated and sharp. Her imagination is incredibly vivid and active. One minute she's a mermaid, swimming the oceans and solving problems...then she's a fairy, whisking through the air visiting friends and animals...until she becomes a princess, singing love songs and waiting for her prince to come. She is incredibly content to be on her own, lost in her worlds, nary a care of who is watching. She can sit for an hour and entertain herself. And we she does, we hear her talking non-stop with imaginary friends, to her animals at the tea party, to her dolls in the carriage. She sings little songs, whispers secrets and makes sweet little sound effects for every adventure. And what strikes me is how deeply engaged she gets with her fantasies, with how intensely she's living every moment. You can tell that everything she experiences and does she experiences and does with intensity. She has very few fears. She crafted a sign for her door this summer, too.

A right young but accomplished rider, she's incredibly at ease around horses. One horse in particular, even on his fussiest days, seems to find comfort when Fiona's around. This summer she has, at just 4 years old, been tacking, steering and trotting on her own. We imagine this is one sport that will cost us dearly.

Fiona struggles with being the baby. She's only 21 months younger than Skylar, and sometimes, she fancies there no difference at all. She wants to wear make-up, jewelry and high heeled shoes (like her sister desperately wants to do, too). She doesn't understand what it means to be younger, because she's always desperately trying to be just like her sister. She likes to test boundaries and our patience. She likes to police her sister's every move. But she still cares how Mom and Dad feel about what she's doing, and always comes back to apologize and steal a hug -- like reassurance that everything's copacetic.

- Both Skylar and Fiona learned to ride their bikes this summer without training wheels. Skylar admittedly a little late; Fiona, no surprise, a little early.

- Skylar lost 3 teeth this summer. Fiona desperately wished to lose just one.

- Both have become quite good swimmers. Skylar a doggie paddler; Fiona a little back floater. Aimee and I have become those parents at the beach who can sit and read a book and not constantly be following children around.

And so we let another summer pass. But this time, I feel like it's really been different. For all of us. We all have changed this summer. And we're all, I think, still trying to get used to our new "us"es. For anyone who's reading, cherish every moment with your children, and notice every detail. Because if you don't, they might end up a little unfamiliar to you.

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